In practice: Food and water

  • In the North Mananara Biosphere Reserve of Madagascar National Park, a farmers association brought together 138 members from 10 villages in 2004 to capitalize on and valorise traditional knowledge relating to the production of high quality organic vanilla products. The association has grown to 918 members from 36 villages, all of whom produce organic vanilla and cloves. Production has grown from 34 kg to 20 t, and sales amounted to 2,676 million Ariary (975,000 euro), with 48% benefit which is used for the funding of community micro projects, ensuring both sustainable food production and local development. 
  • UNESCO has been involved in projects that promote the processing and consumption of native foods. In Ecuador work has focused on reviving the sustainable ancestral way of life of the Shuar Aja, the joint programme initially focused on recovering the traditional farming practices. The programme empowered 50 beneficiary families and recovered 65 species of edible and medicinal plants sown in each Aja (or Chacra). The success of the project is now being copied in other Ecuadorian national groups. The activities implemented by the programme have achieved effective communication between families within the Ajas, created jobs and revenue, revitalized cultural identity and guaranteed the safeguarding of the agro-biodiversity heritage of the Shuar people, thus contributing to the economic and social development of Ecuador. 
  • Over the centuries, an efficient and sustainable irrigation system has been developed in Algeria that has allowed the inhabitants of oases to live in conditions of extreme aridity while respecting the particular properties of these unstable ecosystems. The use of foggaras, which are manmade underground galleries that harvest water, has helped to ensure a suitable water supply. They effectively capture water found at depth and transport it to the surface. Underground piping runs almost horizontally and transports the groundwater to the oasis by means of a slight incline of one or two millimetres per metre. The materials used for the construction of the foggaras come from the surrounding area. Blocks of stone are cut, clay and straw are combined to make a cementing mix and palm trunks are used to consolidate the underground galleries. The foggaras allow for the passive transport of water, relying only on the force of gravity. Water is captured underground and flows under the earth, which prevents its evaporation, until it is close to the oasis where it flows into an open-air canal (seguia). With the help of a stone device in the shape of a comb (kesria), the water continues to irrigate the oasis. The community sets up a ‘water assembly’ where decisions are made on who receives how much water among those who possess water rights in response to variations in water supply. Everyone is free to exercise his or her rights and demands for water. The ‘water deciders’ are then responsible for the distribution of water.
  • Systems such as the foggaras can also be found in Iran, where they have been known for 3,000 years and are called ghanat or quanat, and in Morocco, where they are called rhettaras.
  • The informal home gardens in the urban Amazonia as much as the terraced rice fields of the Philippines and Indonesia are cultural landscapes representing local systems of environmental, social and economic management. When such cultural landscapes are enhanced, they enable a diversity of food production systems especially those that directly benefit women and children.
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