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Naturecultrues Dialogue: Rural Landscapes and Integrated Management

Session 9 with Brenda Barret, Jessica Brown and Mary Laheen

In our new series of naturecultures sessions that runs from May to September 2020, we introduced a different format. Presentations are pre-circulated, leaving most of the session open for active discussion.

In this particular meeting, we had two separate presentations circulated under the theme Rural Landscapes and Integrated Management. The abstract, and link for each of these presentations are included at the end of the article. This summary is drawn up from comments that came up in the dialogue session, and elaborated on in the email discussion afterwards. These comments are general, abstract expressions, and personal thoughts that are not necessarily associated with the view of ICOMOS, IUCN or any other organisation.

As the discussion began, Maya summarized the two presentations as follows:

Your presentations illustrate very clearly how in rural landscapes, the interlinkages between nature and culture are evident. Jessica and Brenda have given an overview of different systems and initiatives which, at international and national levels, recognize a heritage value to rural landscapes, as these are fundamental for food security, biodiversity conservation and cultural continuity.

Mary has illustrated these important values of rural landscapes with an example from a traditional farming system in Ireland, where communities see the landscape in a more holistic way, and which is resilient to the passing of time and socio-economic changes. As a start to the dialogue, we went back to the presenters’ own personal journey through the nature-culture divide in their work on rural landscapes. 

I had a very dynamic discussion, and I add a quote from Monica Luenga that I think is quite admirable: “It was 2009-2010 when we began, thanks to your clever insistence (Lionella Scazzosi), with the Rural Landscapes Initiative. I must say that at that moment there was not much interest in ICOMOS (except for our ISC Cultural Landscapes ICOMOS-IFLA) for the subject. I only took 10 years to make our organization believe it was something to take into account as cultural heritage!”

It is a great reminder of how small change and consistent hard work really can bring change. Well done to many great efforts that play out in this group.

Abstract by Brenda Barret and Jessica Brown: 

Integrative approaches to nature and culture in rural landscapes 

As places where nature and culture intersect in myriad ways, rural landscapes have much to teach us about taking integrative approaches to conservation that bring together diverse values, disciplines and aims.

Spanning a vast area of the planet’s surface, these landscapes and waterscapes serve as the foundation of economic livelihoods and food security worldwide, while encompassing an array of tangible and intangible cultural heritage values that are interlinked with natural values such as biodiversity, agrobiodiversity and ecosystem services. Traditional practices of cultivating and gathering food in rural areas embody the entangled dimensions of nature and culture. 

This overview presentation will explore the role the global heritage community has played and can play in recognizing and conserving rural landscapes, with an emphasis on traditional agricultural landscapes. Drawing on experience from diverse regions, it will highlight lessons on how the multiple values of these places can be better managed for more sustainable outcomes and resilience in the face of global challenges including climate change.

Noting the role of international, national and regional/local designations – such as UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscapes, IUCN Category V Protected Landscapes and Seascapes, Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) and National Heritage Areas – it will briefly review examples of different approaches to management and governance of agricultural landscapes.

The important contribution of community-based strategies for stewardship, such as Landcare in Australia, and the emergence of global networks such as the International Partnership of the Satoyama Initiative, will be flagged up. Finally, the presentation will discuss progress in the emergence of converging understandings of key elements in the stewardship of rural landscapes. Recently ICOMOS has taken the lead by developing the World Rural Landscape Principles (adopted 2017). The opportunity for deeper engagement by nature conservation organizations calls for potential collaboration going forward.

 The case study that will complement this overview presentation is “Farming with Nature.’ In the Backstairs landscape the Republic of Ireland demonstrates the multiple challenges of landscape management and the opportunities that lie with community-based approaches.

Link to Presentation HERE

Abstract by Mary Laheen: Farming with nature in the blackstairs 

A group of upland sheep farmers are involved in a collaboration of their own design to find ways to support threatened fauna and flora in a designated landscape, while making their own farms viable for their families and future generations. This is taking place in the Blackstairs Mountains, Na Staighrí Dubha, in the southeast of Ireland.

The presentation will describe the landscape and how the farmers work and organize themselves collectively in the commonage areas of the mountain. It is a place that has been farmed and inhabited for 6000 years, the landscape shows the marks of the last Ice Age – about 12,000 to 14,000 years ago here – with land formations and glacial debris. Field monuments and other archaeological artefacts are dispersed throughout, reaching back to pre-history, and continuing up to the 19th century. Intangible and tangible cultural heritage exists in the land division system, which is known as the townland matrix, and has roots in the medieval and possibly pre-medieval period. Traditional farming practices continue to exist but are threatened in the current generation. Present-day farmers are aging and younger people are less inclined to continue with an agricultural livelihood. 

The Blackstairs Farming Group has been inspired by and has learnt from other models for the management of landscape in Ireland, such as, the High Nature Value Farming schemes of the Burren – a limestone plateau landscape in County Clare -, and the drystone wall field boundary landscape of the Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland. The presentation aims to describe the emergence of the group and take a look at the progress of the management scheme which is still in its early stages of development.

Link to Presentation HERE


1Alicia Cahn (AC)14Mary Laheen (ML), Panelist2Ana Bajcura (AB)15Marike Franklin (MF), Dialogues Convenor3archer st.clair harvey (AH)16Maya Ishizawa (MI), Moderator4Brenda Barret (BB), Panelist17Mónica Lueng (ML)5Cira Szklowin (CS)18Nicole Bolomey (NB)6Anna Gaynutdinova (AG)19Nobuko Inaba (NI)7Greg De Vries (GdV)20Nora Mitchell (NM)8jane Lennon (JL)21nupur prothi (NP)9Je-Hun Ryu (JR)22Patricia ODonnell (PoD)10Jessica Brown (JB), Panelist23Priyanka Singh (PS)11Kristal Buckley (KB)24Raffaella Laviscio (RL)12Lionella Scazzosi (LS)25Rohit Jigyasu (RJ)13Liz Morgan (LM)26Steve Brown (SB)  27Bansal Suramya (BS)


Working in Silo’s PoD: The “silos” of nature and culture practice- job titles, legislation, planning, knowledge and more- are highly entrenched. How to overcome this separation and integrate more effectively. NP: what is the way forward for policy and legislation at a national and provincial level? where do we see our role in this?RJ: Rural landscapes should be seen not in isolation but how these are influenced by changes in the larger territory including urbanization process…ML: Do you agree that in the sense of improving communities’ lives, GIAHS from FAO are probably better focused than World Heritage. The first ones take into account much more sustainability and the wellness of communities than World Heritage that is still much more addressed to simple heritage conservation?RJ: I totally agree with you Monica…World Heritage is so obsessed with OUV (outstanding Universal Value) business that it tends to ignore the larger linkages with sustainability.PoD: ICOMOS IFLA ISCCL 2019 ADCOM Symposium- “Rural Heritage- Landscape and Beyond” addressed the full range of society-economy-environment sustainability issues. Certainly not aesthetic qualities as primary.PoD: Certainly a the 2030 Agenda- UN SDGs- are a solid touchstone.PoD, NP, RJ, ML
Aesthetic view of rural landscapes in terms of World Heritage RJ: I think it is very important to move away from a purely an aesthetic view of rural landscapes and link it with larger issues of social and economic sustainability. In this context, it is important that heritage is not viewed by the larger audience as an elitist sector but more as a sector that will improve the quality of lives of rural inhabitants.SB: I agree Rohit. Seeing heritage as part of sustainability, resilience, etc. is essential as a way to engage with communities and the host of actors engaged in rural landscapes. SB: Agro-ecology seems to be also represented by ‘regenerative agriculture’ – in Australia at least. See Charles Massey’s book Call of the Reed Warbler’ on thisRJ, SB
Evolution, transformation, and the scale of rural landscapes SB: Interesting phrase ‘landscape of the poor’, Mary. I know you mean financially poor, but rural dwellers often have diverse and rich lives in other contexts (connection to landscape & community connectivity, for example).RJ: Maybe we also need to consider evolution of rural landscapes…we cannot expect farmers to continue with ancient agricultural practices when needs, climatic conditions and economy is undergoing global change. So, in the light of these, what is the future of rural landscapes that we envisage…certainly not as pristine landscape as we have known to appreciate. We must address ways of managing the change in rural landscapes.ML: I agree with the interest of the phrase. In my country it would be, on the contrary, the landscape of the rich, as most of the land, except in a few regions; it is big landowners’ estates. Thanks Mary, exactly what I was writing!AB: In Argentina the scale of rural landscape is huge, all is huge… We have some similar points with Ireland politics: the pour people live in the landscape. When I visited Ireland, I saw a little scale of landscape as a jewel… the owners of more than 100Ha’s live in the town or the city.  AG : In the context of strict institutional division on the national level between culture and nature conservation and protection in the sake of better protection and introduction of holistic approach into the management system of the site which was inscribed on the WHL as a cultural heritage property, do you think, is it essential to re-nominate this site as a cultural landscape or mention of the natural component as a value in the Statement of OUV is enough?BS: To add on, rural spaces may or may not exist in absolute isolation, they are connected to broader geographies be it other regional spaces or other urban ones. Also, we need to look at the rural-urban continuum, where the state of being is always dynamicPoD: A conceptual isolation would be artificial- In the UNESCO Historic Urban Landscape Recommendation discussions, the issue of territorial relationships- the daily interactions of town/city and countryside. With the pandemic there appears to be movement from large cities to smaller communities, a future trend we may see more of with rural settlements increasing. SB: “What is in transformation is difficult to protect”. I agree Lionella, and is part of the thinking around limits of acceptable change. But acceptable to who?ML: Mary, exactly, nobody is speaking about heritage in rural landscapes. Why? Partly, I think, because they are afraid that this will imply the “conservation” or “freezing” of their way of life, techniques, etc.. So, first thing would be to make the communities that considering heritage regarding rural landscapes means on the contrary, sustaining their way of life in a sustainable way!SB: There is a move in Australia to ‘Make Australia Make Again’! That is taking the products of agriculture and using them locally for greater community benefits and employment.PoD: There are communities that are well informed and value their rural cultural landscapes. The characterization of the heritage field as the sole voice of evolved rural CL is I suggest self-focused and incorrect. We have and can continue to find local voices and values in this work. SB, RJ, ML, AG, BS, AB
Rural Landscapes Initiative – in need of specific tools to manage rural landscapes ML: Exactly Lionella, it was 2009-2010 when we began, thanks to your clever insistence, with the Rural Landscapes Initiative. I must say that at that moment there was not much interest in ICOMOS (except for our ISC Cultural Landscapes ICOMOS-IFLA) for the subject. It only took 10 years to make our organization believe it was something to take into account as cultural heritage!ML: As regards to World heritage, the main problem with rural and productive landscapes is authenticity. How to accept this change Lionella has mentioned with authenticity of OUV? Many evaluations for WH (world heritage) productive landscapes do not accept changes and pretend these landscapes should be freezed in the past with farmers living like in medieval or prehistoric times.RJ: Very much agree with views of LionellaAB: Some crops are sustainable and others no., It’s economic production. There are controls but not enough. Different scales and different problems. There isn’t cultural landscape awareness. I agree with Lionella.RL: So we agreeAG: I totally agree with Monica, and if the site is inscribed as cultural heritage it is even less possible to approach to it as something evolving and dynamic (and WHL is full with such so to say hidden or latent cultural landscapes)NP: Honghe Hani terraces showcased many of the stresses, challenges mentioned above. but World heritage rural landscapes also offer an opportunity for showcasing good practice of resilience where we can showcase the way forward.RL: So, we agree that we need specific tools to manage rural landscapes remembering that they are heritage. What we can suggest?AB: I agree with Mónica that rural landscape is a production/economic issueML: Monica this is fundamental problem with WHC…the concepts of authenticity and integrity that originated from the overarching perspective of ‘protection’ are applied across the board. How do we apply or redefine these ‘jargons/concepts’ for landscapes that are always in flux in essence? I would also argue that may be these concepts are not relevant anymore…I sometimes wonder, why don’t we include sustainability as another dimension in the operational guidelines that may qualify heritage values rather than only authenticity and integrity.PoD: “Rural Landscapes are productive” as Monica says- the point is both agriculture and forestry- we think of crops as fields, not woodlands- which need to be integrated. Both are economic in part. Also, now these hectares/acres are also engaged in global conservation- in Vermont in 2019 a first large reserve with carbon credits exchange. Another recent vector to consider.ML: Totally agree with you Rohit. Sustainability is only considered in WH issues in the management plans but not as a “pillar” of the system… We should perhaps re-think the whole of it?… Patricia, absolutely agree also, woodlands in WH, for example, are only considered if they are part of a cultural landscape that is mainly crop fields, like in the Honghe Hani terraces.PoD: By 2022 ISCCL review of the Rural Principles is scheduled. Raffaella notes an invitation to engage. This is one aspect of that participation.ML, AB, RJ, RL, AG, NP, PoD
What is the Covid 19 Pandemic showing us as issues in the field, and what can we each do as individuals I am interested in the way that the COVOD-19 pandemic is showing up issues in many fields, including the fields of heritage and rural landscapes. I thought that the points made by Monica and Rohit about World Heritage (and beyond) were apposite – that the focus on authenticity and intactness needs to be supplemented with deeper considerations of sustainability and well-being (of land/waters and people). To some degree this already happening through the WH Sustainability Policy. I also thought the observation by Patricia was interesting – a movement from urban to rural areas; I am not sure we see that in Australia, but it may well be a medium- to long-term consequence of the pandemic. I mentioned in Chatbox that there is a move to ‘Make Australia Make Again’. My understanding is that this arose because someone was looking to buy a cap / baseball-style cap that was fully made in Australia and was unable to do so (and then started making them). The point is that so much Australian manufacturing happens off-shore and this has highlighted a position of vulnerability and risk in Australia – e.g., lack of masks and other personal protective gear. An interesting example of adaptability in this regard happened with many vineyards in eastern and southwestern Australia. The catastrophic bushfires over the summer of 2019-2020 caused many grapes to be smoke-affected and therefore unsuitable for wine making. Quite a few vineyards, from March this year, turned to producing hand sanitiser with the alcohol produced by the grapes, thus filling a manufacturing need in Australia. I think this is a great example of ingenuity and creativity in the rural sector. Finally, I agree with Jane and others asking what can the ISCCL – and each of us individually – do to support the idea of rural landscapes as heritage. I think this is a difficult ask, and there is no one and no simple answer. However, to be engaged and active is vital. There is so much great work being done generally, and tapping into this is necessary – thanks Brenda and Jessica for reminding us of the huge range of actions already happening around the world. LM: I was particularly interested in the discussions on sustainability by Steve et al “seeing heritage as part of sustainability” and the importance of improving communities’ lives in Agri-environmental schemes, which GIAS appears to take more seriously than WH site OUV.In Ireland people in the Irish Department of Agriculture have been looking for many years at ways to use E.U. funds to conserve traditional environments with sustainable farming practices. This has led to a number of very good Agri- environ-mental schemes. As Mary highlighted in her presentation on the Backstairs -locally led results-based incentives along with the autonomy of management methods devised by farmers were important for successful engagement. While these schemes are mainly devised to enhance and protect biodiversity, (and usually apply to protected natural landscapes such as SAC etc), project management initiatives can and do include cultural landscape support for farmers to understand and conserve cultural heritage along with natural heritage in their rural landscapes. It is important to promote awareness that the wider “everyday” rural landscape places require similar appreciation of their natural and cultural heritage values as SAC, ANOB, etc and provision of appropriate support to improve communities’ livelihoods.Natural heritage awareness has some advantages over cultural landscape awareness.  In Ireland each city/county council has to have a Biodiversity Action Plan – using simple tools and messages to inform the general public. Perhaps we could learn from these plans to help raise awareness of how the rural landscape heritage interconnects with biodiversity and how, together, they form a valuable resource for the future.  SB, LM
Comparison of Session #5 to this session #9 on integrated management CS: I agree with Rohit Jigyasu’s emphasis that landscapes do not stand in isolation, but are influenced by evolving links with its territorial context and processes, although the suggestions that heritage be a part of sustainability -or sustainability be added in the operational guidelines as another dimension to qualify heritage values- may arise some conflicting issues (e.g. regarding sustainability and resilience related to climate change).I wonder if Monica Luengo’s observation that GIAHS from FAO are more focused on sustainability and people, implies that their effective consideration may diminish the visibility and consideration of heritage conservation values, or turn their respective objectives not totally congruent.I also agree with Suramya Bansal to consider the rural-urban continuum (in Latin America we include peri urban, a rural-urban interface of unplanned spill over of urban growth into rural areas). The importance of their evolving links is not much taken into consideration, as Patricia O’Donnell’s mention of daily territorial interactions.It seems to me that consideration of contexts and scales is much more important now to the management of rural landscapes, as they can provide a more resilient, knowledge-based framework for conservation.   The stability of a contemporary cultural landscape embedding familiar or small productive systems, providing habitat, livelihood and attachment, can be more dependent of the economic vicissitudes of markets and  their regional contexts -as opposed to large landowners or corporate agricultural systems, whose performance are linked to factors affecting global markets, producing local impacts (changes in land uses, way of life, landscape).  It was interesting to me to relate some of the issues in this # 9 session, with those in the # 5 session with Jane Lennon.·         Marike Franklin, regarding adaptive landscapes and how much change is acceptable asked whether the “missing link to the management of cultural landscapes is the notion of ‘landscape character’…which is not limited to land use but looks at the range of elements that give it its character”·         Jane Lennon dealt with principles, uncertainties and issues related to integrity and authenticity, governance, and the need of a new approach to “understand not only change but also continuity in the rural landscape as habitat”LS: I said, when we work on rural landscape nature culture interconnection is evident, in the past as in the present, for each place having rural functions and characteristics. Not only outstanding places but all places. And always we can find historic traces, more or less evident and well maintained. The idea to conceive heritage coming from rural landscapes as resource is strategic for the future. My idea is that we could work more and deeply on tools, analysing international tools as UNESCO sites and GIAH’s, but also some regional and national tools to understand better potentialities and problems. Actually, many suggestions have been given during the meeting!!! The organisation of this type of meeting is really excellent and effective!! It could be used also to go deeper on rural landscapes. CS, LS

Circulated pre-reading: 

Reading by Brenda Barret and Jessica Brown: 

Nora J. Mitchell & Brenda Barrett (2015) Heritage Values and Agricultural Landscapes: Towards a New Synthesis, Landscape Research, 40:6, 701-716, DOI:10.1080/01426397.2015.1058346 (attached)

Jessica Brown (2015) Bringing Together Nature and Culture: Integrating a Landscape Approach in Protected Areas Policy and Practice, Nature Policies and Landscape Policies, Chapter 3 of Springer International Publishing Switzerland (attached)

Reading by Mary Laheen: 

Laheen, M and Fitzgerald (2014) Granite Dry Stone Walls and Ditches of the Blackstairs in South Carlow, a Chomhairle Oidhreachta; the Heritage Council Ireland (attached)

Additional reading: 

Jessica Brown (2018) A Few Short Journeys Along the Nature-Culture Continuum: Reflections on community-led conservation. Landscape Magazine, Volume 7 Issue 1 p35 (attached)

ICOMOS-IFLA Principles concerning Rural Landscapes as Heritage, Draft (2017) for GA 2017 6-3-1 – Doctrinal Texts (attached)  

This meeting:Rural Landscapes and Integrated Management

Brenda Barret, Jessica Brown and Mary Laheen

The next meeting:Argentinean perspective on naturecultures

Ana Bajcura, Alicia Cahn and Cira Szklowin

31 August 202010 PM GMT