Satoyama: People and nature under one roof

30 September 2010 | News story

Preserving and developing villages and farmlands in a sustainable way is just as important for biodiversity and human well-being, as is the conservation of wilderness. But to achieve this, we need to build a sound, harmonious and long-lasting relationship with nature.

The Satoyama Initiative focuses on conserving villages, farmlands and associated woodlands, together with the sustainable practices and traditional knowledge that they represent. It is led by IUCN Member the Ministry of the Environment of Japan and the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies and it aims to preserve natural environments that are influenced by people, ensuring a broader global recognition of their value and improving the well-being of the people that maintain them.

The name of the initiative comes from the Japanese words sato - villages, and yama - the mountains, woodlands and grasslands that surround them. Together, they form the unique areas at the crossroads between nature and people. These traditional farming landscapes are increasingly threatened in many parts of the world, mainly due to urban and industrial development and abandonment by an ageing and decreasing population.

The Satoyama Initiative looks into the relationship between nature and people from a dual perspective: it examines the ecosystem services, such as the provision of food and medicine, which are crucial to our well-being but also the ways in which we can sustain them. The initiative also aims to marry traditional knowledge and culture with modern science to ensure that both are used to maximum benefit. It also focuses on developing a new, sustainable way of managing ecosystem services in our rapidly changing world.

The International Platform on Satoyama Initiative (IPSI) is expected to be launched at the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity this October in Nagoya, Japan. It is intended to act as a platform for information sharing and discussion of field projects between international organizations, governments, civil society and private companies.

“The Satoyama Initiative is a great way to remind the rest of the world that all countries have important biodiversity contained within their traditional agricultural systems,” says Jeffrey McNeely, Senior Science Advisor at IUCN. “I congratulate the government of Japan for their support for the biodiversity associated with agriculture, and the many benefits such systems provide to society.”

Watch these videos highlighting various examples of socio-ecological production landscapes around the world and their importance.

Click here to learn more about the Satoyama Initiative.