Sustainable Management of Satoyama Heritage
Agricultural lands, secondary forests, artificial wetlands, and grasslands… In Japanese, there is a name for the area that encompasses these ecosystems, along with human settlements: satoyama.
Satoyama, a bounty of goods and services
Satoyama provides a range of benefits that include food, fibre, forest products, non-timber forest products, economic, cultural, spiritual, and aesthetic services. For example, rice, vegetables, maitake and matsutake (Japanese mushrooms), charcoal, firewood, biomass and woodblocks can be derived from satoyama. Such areas are also a source of great animal and plant biodiversity. In fact, satoyama should be considered as a heritage which has been created and maintained in the past, and passed on to the present. Today, we must ensure that satoyama persists for future generations.
Could satoyama disappear?
The problem is that satoyama is rapidly declining. Factors include unsustainable development practices resulting from construction and development, out-migration of the younger generation to urban centres, advancement of science and technology, and trade. These trends put the vital ecological, social, economic and cultural values of the area at great risk.
Unfortunately, the issue of satoyama is not unique to Japan. It is common throughout Asia, Oceania, Africa and Europe where agricultural or paddy fields, secondary forests, grasslands and human settlements exist.
What the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment says
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) has issued warnings against human activities that have changed ecosystems drastically in the last 50 years. Fragile ecosystems, such as those found in satoyama, are therefore more vulnerable than ever and require urgent attention. If current trends persist, the MA predicts serious destruction of the earth’s ecosystems and their services, which are likely to prevent achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
In order to find solutions to the problems that are affecting satoyama, it is essential to work within the realities of the various social, economic and technological trends and conditions in society.
The role of IICRC
The IICRC Special Programme approaches the satoyama issue to include ecological, social, cultural, economic and institutional aspects, with the aim to analyze the challenges and to propose options to address them. Our research and findings are intended to facilitate policy-making at different levels. In particular, we target stakeholders who are working to enhance the sustainable management of satoyama heritage.
IICRC’s research focuses on the following themes and projects:
- Conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in satoyama;
- Preserving the cultural heritage of satoyama;
- Economic and innovative strategies;
- Assessment of institutional response; and,
- Project on sub-global assessment of satoyama.