Resource Management

Conservation of the Important Agricultural Heritage Systems in the Economically Developed Area:Experiences, Problems and Solutions—A Case Study of Zhejiang Province

  • GU Xingguo , 1, 2 ,
  • JIAO Wenjun 3 ,
  • SUN Yehong 4 ,
  • WANG Bin , 5, *
  • 1. Institute of Rural Development, Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Hangzhou 310021, China
  • 2. Key Laboratory of Creative Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China, Hangzhou 310021, China
  • 3. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
  • 4. Tourism College of Beijing Union University, Beijing 100101, China
  • 5. Research Institute of Subtropical Forestry, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Hangzhou 311400, China
*WANG Bin, E-mail:

GU Xingguo, E-mail:

Received date: 2021-01-23

  Accepted date: 2020-05-07

  Online published: 2021-09-30

Supported by

Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences(XDA23100203)


Zhejiang Province, located in the Yangtze River Delta region, is representative of China's economically developed areas. It enjoys superior natural conditions and a long history of agriculture, and is a comprehensive agricultural area with integrated development of agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry and fishery. It has nurtured the farming culture represented by Hemudu culture and Liangzhu culture, which have given rise to numerous precious Agricultural Heritage Systems. At present, Zhejiang Province has three of the world’s Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) and 12 China Nationally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (China-NIAHS), so it not only has the largest number of heritages in China, but it has also attained remarkable achievements in heritage conservation. Taking Zhejiang Province as an example in combination with the rural revitalization strategy, this paper summarizes the achievements in the protection of Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (IAHS) in Zhejiang Province during the past 15 years from the aspects of increasing farmers’ income, cultural Inheritance and industrial upgrading, as well as the conservation experiences in government promotion, community initiative, enterprise participation, technology driving and social linkage. Further, in view of the problems that exist in the current heritage protection,such as imperfect management of heritage sites, low participation of community residents, lack of special protection funds, and imperfect provincial management system,the following countermeasures and suggestions are put forward: (1) Improve the management mechanism for the conservation and development of Agricultural Heritage Systems; (2) Develop regional public branding of agricultural products in Agricultural Heritage System sites; (3) Increase the Agricultural Heritage System science education as well as cultural and creative product development; (4) Carry out the evaluation and recognition of IAHS at the provincial level; and (5) Provide substantial support and input to the conservation and utilization of IAHS. This study can provide some guidance for the conservation of IAHS in Zhejiang Province and it provides important reference for IAHS in the economically developed areas in China.

Cite this article

GU Xingguo , JIAO Wenjun , SUN Yehong , WANG Bin . Conservation of the Important Agricultural Heritage Systems in the Economically Developed Area:Experiences, Problems and Solutions—A Case Study of Zhejiang Province[J]. Journal of Resources and Ecology, 2021 , 12(4) : 513 -521 . DOI: 10.5814/j.issn.1674-764x.2021.04.009

1 Introduction

Traditional agriculture incorporates the simple ecological views and values of resource conservation and recycling, mutual interdependence among organisms, and harmony between man and nature (You,2008). In many countries, generations of farmers, herdsmen, foresters and fishermen have created, developed and maintained specialized agricultural systems and landscapes based on a diversity of species and their interactions, using unique management practices and techniques appropriate to local conditions. These unique agricultural production systems created and inherited by humans and their environment in long-term coordinated development are called Agricultural Heritage Systems (Min and Sun, 2009).
China has a vast territory with varying geographical conditions and different levels of economic development, thus forming rich types of Agricultural Heritage Systems. Zhejiang Province is one of the smallest provinces in China, but among the fastest in terms of economic development. In 2019, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Zhejiang Province was 6.2352×1012 yuan, with a per capita GDP of 107625 yuan, ranking fourth in the country in terms of the economic aggregate. The per capita disposable income of permanent urban residents was 60182 yuan and that of rural residents was 29876 yuan, ranking third and second in China, respectively (Zhejiang Provincial Statistics Bureau, 2019). Thus, it is representative of China’s economically developed provinces. The hardworking and enterprising spirit of the people of Zhejiang Province, and their creative ability of being brave enough to explore, have been fully demonstrated and reflected in the course of agricultural development, which has left behind many precious Agricultural Heritage Systems. The GIAHS of Qingtian Rice-Fish Culture System, located in Zhejiang Province, is in the world’s first batch and China’s first GIAHS (Wu and Zhou,2014). By the end of 2020, China had 15 GIAHS sites and 118 China-NIAHS sites, among which Zhejiang Province had three GIAHS sites and 12 China-NIAHS sites. From the perspective of both GIAHS and China-NIAHS, the conservation of IAHS of Zhejiang Province is in the forefront, with not only the largest number, but also many remarkable achievements. A systematic summary of the conservation experiences of IAHS in Zhejiang can provide important reference for the conservation of IAHS in the economically developed areas of China.

2 Overview and application progress of Agricultural Heritage Systems in Zhejiang Province

2.1 Overview of Agricultural Heritage Systems in Zhejiang Province

Zhejiang Province is located in the mid-latitude zone along the southeast coast of China, and has the transitional and diversified geographical advantages of transitions both from north to south and from land to sea (Agricultural Chronicles Compilation Committee of Zhejiang Province, 2004). In the long process of economic and social development, agriculture has always been in the leading and basic position, within which the ancient rice culture and intensive traditional agricultural technique is one of the typical representatives of agricultural civilization in China. From prehistoric times, there are abundant primitive agricultural remains of the ancestors in Zhejiang, among which the representative culture sites are: Shangshan Ruins, Kuahuqiao Ruins, Hemudu Ruins, Majiabang site, Liangzhu Ruins, etc. They prove that Zhejiang was the first area in the world to carry out agricultural production activities such as rice cultivation, sericulture and silk reeling, livestock raising, and also reflect the production and living conditions of people at that time. In Hemudu Ruins, the rich accumulation, large quantity and intact preservation of rice, can be called the richest prehistoric rice remains in China (Patty,2009).
There are many hills and gentle slopes in Zhejiang Province, and the soil is acidic red and yellow soil, which is suitable for tea planting and growth. It is an important birthplace of Chinese tea culture, from which there are many famous teas. The world-famous tea of West Lake Longjing originated from here. The unique situation of Zhejiang Province, with more mountains and less land, has created the rich and varied forest type of Agricultural Heritage Systems. For example, Huangyan tangerine is the ancestor of the wide peel citrus now grown around the world, which has been cultivated for over 1700 years. The Shaoxing Kuaijishan Ancient Chinese Torreya can be regarded as a living specimen of grafting technology. The oldest Torreya grandis has a history of more than 1500 years (Wang et al., 2013). It is also common to raise fish in paddy fields in mountainous areas. The method of “Fish eat insects and weeds-faeces of fish fertilize the soil” is adopted to increase rice production and fish harvest, among which the Qingtian Rice-Fish Culture System is the most representative (Sun et al., 2008).
The northern part of Zhejiang Province has vast plains and rivers, and some low-lying areas are easily flooded. Local people dig the ground into ponds according to the characteristics of the terrain and raise freshwater fish. At the same time, people pile the mud into a base, and then cultivate mulberry and breed silkworms, thus forming the famous Mulberry-dyke & Fish-pond System to reduce flooding while obtaining a variety of products (Ye, 2017). There are records of cultured pearls in the Song Dynasty (Zhang et al., 2020). In addition, there are nearly 2666 km2 of tidal flat resources in Zhejiang Province, accounting for about 13% of those in the whole country. Abundant marine resources have formed a long history of the mariculture industry. Tegillarca granosa cultivation has a history of more than 1700 years in Zhejiang Province. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, Tegillarca granosa cultivation in Yueqing County began to take shape.
In order to preserve water and soil, many effective measures have been taken, such as terraces, ponds and so on. Ancient water conservancy heritages, such as Yunhe Terrace and Tongji Weir, are typical examples of the rational utilization of water and soil resources by people. Yunhe Terrace is known as “three thousand terraces”, because of its long history of more than 1000 years, the elevation difference is more than 1200 m and 1000 multi-story terraces. Tongji Weir has a history of 1500 years and is the oldest large-scale water conservancy project in China.
Fig. 1 Distribution of IAHS in Zhejiang Province

2.2 Progress in GIAHS and China-NIAHS declarations

Among the five GIAHS conservation pilots selected by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 2005, the Qingtian Rice-Fish Culture System in Zhejiang was included and Longxian Village in Qingtian County was identified as a specific pilot site. With strong support from the FAO, the former Ministry of Agriculture, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Qingtian has made useful exploration in the conservation and development of the Rice-Fish Culture System. For more than 10 years, Qingtian County has held many heritage conservation themed activities, established conservation institutions, formulated corresponding conservation plans and policies, and the local economy has achieved rapid development with the help of heritage conservation. Also, the biodiversity, traditional farming techniques, ecological environment and natural landscape of the heritage site have been well protected, serving as a model and sample for the conservation of Agricultural Heritage Systems in China. Following the Qingtian Rice-Fish Culture System, the Kuaijishan Ancient ChineseTorreya and Huzhou Mulberry-dyke & Fish-pond System were successfully declared as GIAHS in 2013 and 2017, respectively.
In 2012, the former Ministry of Agriculture began carrying out the evaluation and identification of China-NIAHS. From 2013 to 2019, 12 systems were selected for the conservation list of China-NIAHS in Zhejiang Province, namely, Qingtian Rice-Fish Culture System, Kuaijishan Ancient Chinese Torreya, Huzhou Mulberry-dyke & Fish-pond System, Qingyuan Mushroom Cultural System, Hangzhou West Lake Longjing Tea Culture System, Xianju Bayberry Cultivation System, Yunhe Terrace System, Deqing Freshwater Pearl Culture and Utilization System, Ningbo Huanggulin Juncus Effusus-Rice Rotation System, Anji Bamboo Culture System, Huangyan Mandarin Pier-building Cultivation System, and Kaihua Mountain Spring Water Fishing System.
Compared with other provinces, the evaluation and declaration of IAHS in Zhejiang Province have been effective. Whether counting GIAHS or China-NIAHS, Zhejiang Province is the province with the largest number. Meanwhile, those heritages have a long history of development, unique agricultural products, rich biodiversity, distinctive cultural features, perfect knowledge and technology systems, and beautiful rural ecological landscapes, which are all typical representatives of the excellent traditional farming culture of Zhejiang Province.

3 Main conservation effectiveness of IAHS in Zhejiang Province

The rich biological, technological and cultural “genes” contained in the Agricultural Heritage Systems are of great practical significance for the implementation of the rural revitalization strategy (Min and Cao, 2018). Taking the conservation of IAHS as an opportunity, each heritage site of Zhejiang Province actively creates high-quality agricultural product brands, inherits and carries forward excellent agricultural culture, and vigorously develops the rural leisure industry, thus injecting new driving forces into rural revitalization continuously and achieving remarkable results.
(1) The quality and benefits of featured agricultural products are significantly improved and have increased the farmers’ incomes.
With the help of Agricultural Heritage System brands, each heritage site vigorously promotes the development of characteristic industries and the creation of ecological brands, which greatly improves the popularity and market price of the agricultural products of the heritage sites. Shaoxing City takes advantage of old Torreya grandis, classifies Torreya grandis and its customers, and focuses on building a number of high-end brands of Torreya grandis. Those Torreya grandis over a thousand years old costs 360 yuan kg-1, which is 50 yuan more than the normal Torreya grandis. The market price of ecological rice produced by Qingtian Rice-Fish Culture System has been increasing year by year. The price of ecological rice has increased from 4 yuan kg-1 to 40 yuan kg-1, and the price of field fish has increased from 24 yuan kg-1 to 50 yuan kg-1. The field fish and dried field fish are in short supply in local and surrounding markets.
Qingyuan County is located in a relatively underdeveloped region in Zhejiang Province. Relying on the Qingyuan Mushroom Cultural System, it has realized the coordinated development of forest resource conservation and the edible fungus industry, and formed a variety of industrial types such as agricultural and forestry product production, processing and marketing, forest tourism and rural cultural tourism. By 2015, Qingyuan County had eliminated the absolute poverty of “less than 4600 yuan for a person”. Lishui City is the prefecture-level city with the most Agricultural Heritage Systems in Zhejiang Province. In 2014, Lishui City integrated the characteristic agricultural resources in the City and created the regional public brand of “Lishui Mountain Farming”, which was highly recognized by the public immediately after its appearance.
(2) Agri-culture is effectively protected and inherited, and has promoted the prosperity of rural culture.
Through the evaluation and arrangement of farming culture, heritage sites have greatly enhanced people’s cultural consciousness and cultural confidence, and traditional farming techniques have been protected and rural collective values have been inherited. With the increasing efforts to protect IAHS in Zhejiang Province, some traditional farming cultures, such as praying for rain in the New Year, offering sacrifices to the mountains and lands, ploughing and harvesting, and celebrating the harvest, are being gradually restored. Some characteristic folk and festival activities have attracted increasing attention, such as the folk activities of “Qingtian Fish Lantern Dance”, “Offering Sacrifice to Wu Sangong” and others, the festival activities of Qingyuan Mushroom Culture Festival, Huzhou Fish & Mulberry Harvest Festival and others, which have a growing influence in the society.
At the same time, the conservation of heritage greatly promotes the conservation of traditional farming knowledge and technology. For example, the rice and field fish cultivation technique of Qingtian Rice-Fish Culture System, traditional knowledge on the conservation of biodiversity and rational use of water and soil resources of Shaoxing Kuaijishan Ancient ChineseTorreya, traditional Duohua cultivation technique of Xianggu production of Qingyuan Mushroom Cultural System, have all been revitalized by heritage conservation, and many of their technologies have been extended to other areas. Meitan County in Guizhou Province introduced field fish from Qingtian County into their cultivated rice and fish system, resulting in a double harvest of rice and fish. This not only benefited farmers and increased their income, but also optimized the rural industrial structure and added vigor and vitality to the new rural construction.
(3) Heritage sites have become important tourism and research destinations, and have promoted the upgrading of rural industries.
Agricultural Heritage Systems are not only important agricultural production systems, but also important cultural and landscape resources. On the basis of conservation, all heritage sites can realize the combination of ecological agriculture and leisure agriculture and the integration of primary, secondary and tertiary industries through functional expansion, so as to accelerate the upgrading of the rural industry of heritage sites and promote the sustainable development of the social economy. Qingtian County is actively building the Rice-Fish Culture Museum, striving to expand the function of GIAHS, accelerating the integration of Rice-Fish Culture industry with sightseeing agriculture and rural tourism, and enhancing the vitality of GIAHS. “Knowing the heritage and tasting the fish” has become a characteristic tourism brand in Fangshan Township, Qingtian County.
The beautiful ecological environment and unique forest landscape of Shaoxing Kuaijishan Ancient ChineseTorreyahave attracted many tourists from Shanghai, Hangzhou and other places, and many of them come for leisure, recuperation and vacation. “Appreciating the thousand- year-old ancient trees and enjoying the fruits of the Jin and Tang Dynasties” has become the theme of the cultural tourism of ancient Chinese Torreya Grandis in 2019. The Huzhou Mulberry-dyke & Fish-pond System and the criss- crossing river constitute the unique scenery of this watery place. Through organizing research and learning experiences during visits to the Mulberry-dyke & Fish-pond System, people can intuitively understand and feel the farming culture of their hometown. The research base of Mulberry-dyke & Fish-pond System built by the Digang Fishing Village has been rated as one of the top ten tourist destinations in Zhejiang Province in 2019. At the same time, leisure sightseeing agritainment with the theme of “Mulberry-dyke & Fish-pond” has actively developed and accelerated the organic combination of “Mulberry-dyke & Fish-pond” and the tourism industry.

4 Main conservation experiences of IAHS in Zhejiang Province

After 15 years of development, Zhejiang Province has gained relatively rich experience in the conservation of important agricultural cultural heritage. Especially in regard to the “five-in-one” multi-party conservation mechanism of government promotion, community initiative, enterprise participation, technology driving, and social linkage (Min, 2016), it has made outstanding progress in the construction.
(1) Adhering to the government’s promotion, the heritage conservation mechanism and policy are constantly improved.
For the conservation of IAHS in Zhejiang Province, the government plays a leading role. Its main task is to formulate relevant supporting policies, implement standardized management, organize the formulation and implementation of planning, and be responsible for fund raising, etc. The most important goal is to bring the conservation and utilization of IAHS into the overall layout of local development and integrate it into the development strategies of ecological civilization construction, beautiful countryside construction, ecological environment conservation and cultural industry development. Meanwhile, by highlighting the dominant position of farmers, comprehensively implementing the direct subsidy for grain growing and farmland transfer subsidies, strengthening agricultural practical technology training, and helping to build public brands, the local government will ensure that the vast majority of farmers obtain real benefits from the heritage conservation, and maximize the enthusiasm of farmers to participate in the conservation.
For example, Qingtian County issued the Interim Measures for the conservation of Qingtian Rice-Fish Culture System, which clarified the policy, content, measures, liability subjects, funds guarantee, reward and punishment mechanisms, etc. regarding the heritage conservation. It also formulated the Plan for the Conservation and Development of Qingtian Rice-Fish Culture System (2016-2025), which defined the general idea for the heritage conservation and development in the next decade from the perspectives of inheriting farming culture, cultivating and strengthening the rice and fish industry, and promoting the integrated development of agriculture and tourism. Shaoxing has established the joint conference system of Kuaijishan Ancient Chinese Torreya Conservation and the heritage conservation and management institution, formulated the management measures for the use of heritage signs, and actively promoted the legislation of heritage conservation. The Regulations on the Conservation of Shaoxing Kuaijishan Ancient ChineseTorreya is the seventh local regulation, which is the first time to implement local legislative Conservation for a single plant in Zhejiang Province. The Opinions on Promoting the Inheritance and Development of T orreya Grandis Industry was formulated, and 2 million yuan was allocated annually from the special fund of Forest Shaoxing for the heritage conservation and promotion.
(2) Adhering to community initiative, the enthusiasm of farmers to participate in the conservation has been constantly improved.
Communities that include farmers are the owners of the Agricultural Heritage Systems and the direct participants in the heritage conservation. They are also the subjects of cultural inheritance, agricultural production and market operation, as well as the main beneficiaries of the conservation achievements. Farmers in the heritage site of Qingtian Rice-Fish Culture System have gained great profits by selling field fish or engaging in the services of agritainment and catering. A number of typical demonstration households related to the conservation and development of the Agricultural Heritage System have emerged. The scale of ecological tourism of Kuaijishan Ancient Chinese Torreyahas been growing each year, and it now receives 8.0×105 tourists annually and generates 3.0×108 yuan of output value, greatly increasing farmers’ income. Qingyuan uses the traditional Duohua cultivation technique to produce mushrooms, and the price of the fresh mushrooms is as high as 150 yuan kg-1, while the price of mushrooms produced by modern substitute material cultivation techniques is only 10 yuan kg-1.
Meanwhile, because of the active participation of farmers, traditional farming techniques have been maintained, and new ecological agriculture models are also being explored and developed. Traditional farming methods, such as building cross-walls to prevent soil erosion, applying farm manure, picking with centipede ladders, peeling shells and roasting by manual methods, are still widely used by farmers in the heritage site of Kuaijishan Ancient Chinese Torreya. At the same time, some new agricultural production methods have also been promoted in the heritage site, such as the introduction and gradual promotion of mountain rice in Torreya grandis forests, which can increase the biodiversity of the Torreya grandis forests and the income of farmers to realize the win-win result of ecological and economic benefits.
(3) Adhering to enterprise participation, the integrated development of primary, secondary and tertiary industries has achieved initial success.
The participation of enterprises has greatly improved the level of products and market development, capital investment, industrial management and other aspects of heritage sites. Torreya grandis processing enterprises in Shaoxing City mainly focus on the frying of Torreya grandis fruit. In recent years, many enterprises have been actively engaged in deep processing of Torreya grandis and its by-products, developing new products and derivatives of Torreya grandis, and promoting the extension of traditional industries into many new fields. In 2018, Zhejiang Champion Torreya Grandis Co., Ltd. began cooperating with the famous international daily-product chemical enterprise SK Group (South Korea) and launched four series of Torreya grandis derivatives, including 11 products such as essential oil skin care, biological fiber fermentation mask, acne removing essence, handmade essential oil soap, and high-end cleaning and care products.
Zhejiang OSMUN Group has been devoted to pearl culture and industrial development for a long time, and has established a complete industrial chain from freshwater mussel cultivation to pearl terminal product production. In 2016, the total amount of pearl deep processing in Deqing County reached nearly 100 tons, accounting for about 10% of the total production of freshwater pearls in China. It has become the largest deep processing base of freshwater pearls in China. The annual output value of pearl cultivation and deep processing exceeds 5 billion yuan, and nearly 10000 people are employed. The Deqing Pearl Town, composed of OSMUN Pearl Industrial Park and Xiaoshanyang Pearl Cultural Park, is taken as the carrier to give full play to the functions of sightseeing, leisure, cultural inheritance and scientific research of Deqing pearl culture, which further promotes the development of Deqing leisure and sightseeing agriculture.
Relying on rich forest resources, Qingyuan Mushroom Cultural System has formed a variety of industrial types, including agricultural and forestry product production, processing, marketing, forest tourism and rural cultural tourism. The beautiful forest landscape and ecological environment also attract many tourists. In 2018, the forest scenic spot of the heritage site received 1.0825×106 tourists, and realized tourist income of 3.5876×107 yuan, accounting for about 44.0% of the total GDP of the heritage site.
(4) Adhering to scientific and technological guidance, the conservation and utilization of heritage sites are promoted in an orderly manner.
Science and technology play an important role in the conservation and development of IAHS in Zhejiang Province. Experts from agricultural ecology, agricultural history, agricultural culture, agricultural economy, rural development and other fields have been extensively involved in the value exploration and evaluation of IAHS, analyzed the sustainable development mechanism, assisted in the formulation of scientific and operable conservation and development plans, scientifically integrated ideas from modern agricultural technology to improve the theory of traditional knowledge and experience, and carried out scientific popularization, etc., which provides important intellectual support for IAHS conservation.
In 2016, Qingtian County established the first academician and expert workstation of Agricultural Heritage Systems in Lishui City level. The Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research of Chinese Academy of Sciences and Zhejiang University have carried out research projects on the multi-participation mechanism of heritage conservation, the development of ecological tourism and the ecological mechanism of Qingtian Rice-Fish Culture System for many years, which have provided strong theoretical support for the conservation work. In cooperation with Zhejiang A&F University, Shaoxing City has established the Torreya grandis Research Institute, postdoctoral workstations, test bases and technical research and development centers to carry out research onTorreya grandis conservation and development. In 2013, the project of “Research and Promotion of Key Technologies for Torreya grandis Improved Variety Selection and Efficient Cultivation” won the first prize of science and technology of Zhejiang Province. In the same year, a provincialTorreya grandis breeding center and germplasm collection bank were established in Shaoxing City. In 2016, it was named as the National Germplasm Resource Bank. By 2019, the number of Torreya grandis resource types in the Germplasm Resource Bank had increased to 255.
(5) Adhering to social linkage, the social environment of heritage conservation has been well created.
The improvement of public awareness and active participation of the public have created a good social environment for the heritage conservation. Qingtian County takes the inheritance and promotion of rice and fish culture as an important work of heritage conservation, and often performs the fish lantern dance at important festivals, such as the Spring Festival, to promote traditional culture. In some towns and villages, folk customs such as traditional breeding of field fish, giving dried field fish as a gift, and taking fish species as a dowry are still practiced. Meanwhile, people actively carry out rice-fish culture festivals, rice-fish cooking contests and other themed activities. Qingtian Rice-Fish Culture System has been reported by CCTV, BBC, Hong Kong Cable TV, Hong Kong Ming Pao, China Daily, Guangming Daily and other well-known media, which greatly improved its popularity and social influence.
Every year, a large-scale Torreya grandis cultural festival with rich content and Shaoxing characteristics is held in Kuaijishan Ancient Chinese Torreya. At the same time, people carry out Torreya grandis cultural activities on campus regularly, and compile books on Torreya grandis according to the differential receptivity of middle and primary school students. Through teaching, students can get in touch with Torreya grandis culture from childhood. In Gulai Town of Shengzhou City, sacrificing, blessing and other folk activities related to Torreya grandis are held every year. In Jidong Town of Keqiao District, sacrificing the Kuaijishan God is held during the Torreya grandis festival. Meanwhile, people have also shot and produced special promotional videos such as “ Torreya grandis, Hello!” and carried out the selection campaign of “The best ancientTorreya grandisin Kuaijishan” to expand its influence in various ways. In 2017, the ancientTorreya grandis was rated as one of the 15 Most Beautiful Forests in China by the Journal of Forest & Humankind.

5 Problems and their countermeasures in the conservation of IAHS in Zhejiang Province

5.1 Problems existing in the conservation of IAHS in Zhejiang Province

Zhejiang Province has made outstanding achievements in the evaluation, declaration, and conservation of IAHS, but the following problems still exist:
(1) Inadequate management structures at most heritage sites
The Identification Criteria of China-NIAHS stipulates that there should be clear leading and management organizations for the conservation and development of Agricultural Heritage Systems. For this reason, heritage sites have established leading groups for Agricultural Heritage System work led by county or municipal leaders in charge of agriculture when declaring China-NIAHS. However, most of the Agricultural Heritage System work is partly managed by the agricultural department after the declaration is successful, although they lack specialized management institutions and personnel. Besides, the conservation and utilization of Agricultural Heritage Systems involve agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, water, environmental conservation, culture, tourism, science and technology, education, and other departments, which require unified coordination by the government, which is often neglected in the actual management.
(2) Lack of participation by the residents of heritage sites
The community residents of heritage sites, i.e., local farmers, are not only the owners of heritage but also should be the main conservators of heritage. Probably related to the development stage of heritage, the degree of participation of local farmers is not consistent with their status as conservation subjects, thus the conservation and utilization of most IAHS is led by the government, enterprises and scholars. Currently, for most farmers, gaining more economic income is the main motivation for their participation in Agricultural Heritage System conservation, and they do not understand the specifics of why and how to conserve the farm. As a result, it is difficult to get them to truly commit to the cause of Agricultural Heritage System conservation without a sustainable business model.
(3) Lack of special funds for the conservation of Agricultural Heritage Systems
At present, infrastructure construction, scientific research, technical training, propaganda and promotion, and ecological compensation for the conservation of IAHS rely on local government funding support, and most of this support is in the form of project subsidies. Nevertheless, compared with national intangible cultural heritage, Chinese traditional villages, and national nature reserves, the conservation of IAHS lacks regular special funding support. Although Qingtian, Shaoxing, Huzhou, Qingyuan, etc. have achieved greater success by relying on sustained local government funding for IAHS conservation, the relevant stakeholders at some other heritage sites are generally unwilling to take on this responsibility, which is why conservation efforts are limited.
(4) Inadequate management system of Agricultural Heritage Systems at the provincial level
Zhejiang Province is rich in Agricultural Heritage System resources, and it has the earliest and largest number of IAHS designations, but the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs is more responsible for the review and summary of heritage information and related guidance work in declaration and management, but lacks a management channel on IAHS. In 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs proposed to “explore and establish a regional Agricultural Heritage Systems list”, which may provide an opportunity to improve the provincial Agricultural Heritage System management system, but this work has not yet been implemented.

5.2 Countermeasures to promote the conservation and development of IAHS in Zhejiang Province

In view of the existing problems and drawing on the experiences of conservation and utilization of IAHS in foreign countries (Yiu et al., 2016; Yang et al., 2017; Zhang et al., 2017), the following policy recommendations are put forward:
(1) Improve the management mechanism for the conservation and development of Agricultural Heritage Systems
It is recommended that the heritage sites set up special management departments, which are responsible for the declaration, management, planning and supervision of IAHS in the region, the implementation of conservation and management measures, the practice of conservation and management measures in strict accordance with the formulated management measures and relevant plans, and the coordination with water conservancy, environmental conservation, culture, tourism, science and technology, education and other departments to complete the conservation, development and utilization of the Agricultural Heritage Systems. In addition, it is suggested that the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs should develop and introduce policies and systems on Agricultural Heritage Systems through conducting heritage census, declaration guidance, management training and monitoring, as well as evaluation to strengthen the management of Agricultural Heritage Systems in various places.
(2) Develop regional public branding of the agricultural products in Agricultural Heritage System sites
First, fully develop the regional public brands of agricultural products in the sites. The agricultural products of 12 IAHS sites in Zhejiang Province are diverse, high-quality, and rich in culture, which have the unique advantages for building regional public brands. It is recommended to register public trademarks with the alliance as the main body, to jointly develop unified product selection standards, an origin certification system, a traceability system, and management methods by various Agricultural Heritage Systems management departments, and to carry out special activities to promote the brands of agricultural products of Agricultural Heritage System sites. Second, build an e-commerce platform for agricultural products in the sites. By using the alliance as a link, it can contact the suppliers of agricultural products that meet the standards of each Agricultural Heritage System site, seek suitable e-commerce operators, and build an e-commerce trading platform of Agricultural Heritage System sites in Zhejiang.
(3) Increase Agricultural Heritage System science education as well as cultural and creative product development
First, establish a scientific base for popularizing IAHS in Zhejiang Province. The sites not only have ecologically sound natural conditions, distinctive regional agricultural products, and beautiful rural ecology but also carry the essence of the excellent traditional Chinese farming culture, and would be an excellent place to carry out popular science education on farming culture. Moreover, it is recommended that the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, jointly with the Department of Education, the Provincial Science Association, and other departments, work together to promote the theme of farming culture science and research routes in Zhejiang Province. Second, develop a series of cultural and creative products with the theme of Agricultural Heritage Systems. Agricultural Heritage Systems are rich in material and intangible cultural heritage, so the development of cultural and creative products can process and design these materials through technical means to create high value-added products that integrate the ancient and modern, and communicate elegance and commonality, which is of great significance to the conservation and inheritance of IAHS.
(4) Carry out the evaluation and recognition of IAHS at the provincial level
In recent years, Zhejiang Province has been paying more and more attention to the declaration of IAHS around the country, and the competition has become increasingly intense. In order to further explore and protect the Agricultural Heritage Systems in various places, and at the same time provide a reserve list for the identification of China-NIAHS and GIAHS, it is suggested that the Provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs organize the work of evaluating and identifying IAHS at the provincial level. Simultaneously, concerning the identification criteria, declaration requirements, and management methods of China-NIAHS, it can develop a declaration process and management measures for IAHS at the provincial level that are adapted to the actual situation in Zhejiang Province, thereby striving to provide a model for the establishment of a regional Agricultural Heritage System list in China.
(5) Provide substantial support and input to the conservation and utilization of IAHS
First, implement regular special financial support similar to that for traditional villages, intangible cultural heritage, and nature reserves. In the meantime, establish a mechanism for monitoring and inspection of the use of special funds and a performance evaluation system. Second, implement compensation for ecological and cultural conservation of agricultural and cultural heritage sites, especially for the traditional varieties, natural landscapes, and cultural relics protected by the sites. Third, tax preference should be given to the development of special agricultural products and leisure agriculture in heritage sites, to promote the active participation of relevant enterprises and cooperative organizations, while also expanding the brand effect of IAHS.

6 Conclusions

Zhejiang Province is a relatively developed area, which is also the province with the earliest protection of Agricultural Heritage Systems and the largest number of IAHS in China. The remarkable achievements in the protection of Agricultural Heritage Systems in Zhejiang Province are mainly attributed to two aspects. On the one hand, rich and diverse geographical features and a long history of agricultural civilization have accumulated rich Agricultural Heritage System resources for the people of Zhejiang. On the other hand, the improvement of economic and social levels promotes people’s attention and investment in the protection of Agricultural Heritage Systems. Through field investigation, the author summarized in detail the good practices undertaken by Zhejiang Province in constructing the “Five-in-one” Agricultural Heritage System protection mechanism, which is promoted by the government, the community initiative, the enterprise initiative, the science and technology guidance, and the social linkage, which can provide a reference for the evaluation, protection and inheritance of Agricultural Heritage Systems in other economically developed areas.
Although Zhejiang has made outstanding achievements in the application and protection of IAHS, it still faces various problems, such as an imperfect management system, insufficient community participation and a lack of special funding support. The protection of Agricultural Heritage Systems is different from the protection of other types of heritage, which place more emphasis on “dynamic protection” and “adaptive management”. It is opposed to both “destructive development” lacking planning and control and “frozen preservation” which is rigid and unchanging. Following the basic principle, this paper proposes a special management department, making public Agricultural Heritage System farms produce brands, construction of an agricultural science research base, cultural heritage as the provincial Agricultural Heritage System, such as the implementation of special funds to support further important cultural heritage protection and development of agriculture in Zhejiang Province through concrete countermeasures. The fundamental goal is to promote Agricultural Heritage Systems under the new condition of self-sustaining and sustainable development. FAO emphasizes that “GIAHS is not about the past but the future”. Therefore, the protection and development of Agricultural Heritage Systems will be a long-term and dynamic process, which will need to adapt to the changing economic and social environment by adopting adaptive measures.
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