Ramsar Wetland Convention Meeting in Korea: Protecting Rice Paddies

(Photo of rice paddy farmers from WETecol)

Earlier this month, the important UN Ramsar Convention held its 10th meeting in South Korea. Some 2000 delegates from governments, NGOs and industry participated. Among the issues were resolutions concerning the relationship of wetlands to climate change and biofuels, and protection for rice paddy fields. The convention is one of those amazing global treaties that bring nations together to deal with issues that no country can solve on their own. Yet, more wetlands than ever are under threat from development and urban, technology-driven needs that couldn't care less about the environment. I was particularly pleased that rice paddy fields, so common in Asia, were brought to the forefront and got a special mention in the final resolution:In the final resolution (COP10 DR 31), the preamble affirms that the focus of the resolution is on the maintenance and enhancement of the ecological and cultural role and value of appropriate rice paddies as wetland systems, consistent and in harmony with the Convention, internationally agreed development goals and other relevant obligations. The COP:

* encourages parties to promote further research on flora, fauna and ecological functions in rice paddies and on the cultures that have evolved within rice-farming communities that have maintained the ecological value of rice paddies as wetland systems, in order to identify sustainable rice paddy farming practices that reinforce wetland conservation objectives and provide ecosystem services;
* invites parties to consider offering recognition and/or protection to such sites through, for example, their designation as Wetlands of International Importance and through mechanisms such as the FAO Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems Programme; and
* further invites parties to disseminate and exchange information on these practices and sites among governments, farmers and conservation agencies, in order to support improvement of sustainable rice farming practices and water management.

The COP calls upon parties to: identify challenges and opportunities associated with managing rice paddies as wetland systems in the context of the wise use of wetlands; and ensure that planning, farming practices and water management are implemented.

(COP = Conference Parties, meaning the countries that are part of a UN convention)

Rice paddy fields depend on water distribution and clever land engineering to maximize yields while also protecting the hills and mountains where the farming takes place. Small paddies are carefully maintained, year after year, by hundreds of farmers with deep appreciation of their environment. When we think of wetlands, we tend to think of birds or frogs, right? But in these parts of the world, wetlands are the very source of life, and the basis of civilization. I like that the Ramsar Convention is reaching a point where this is taken into consideration. Migratory birds, frogs, insects - or the very foundation of the crop biodiversity that people rely on for survival - it is all connected.

Enjoy the video by Biodiversity Agriculture Support Center, a Japanese NGO that educates children about rice paddy fields. They are cooperating with Korean groups and showed this film at the Chanwon Ramsar Convention. Well done!

Brought to you by Martin Frid at greenz.jp

Tags: Conservation | Japan | South Korea

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