Discovered historical evidence proves that Iran is placed among the ancient civilizations; a civilization developed by the sustainable and participatory management systems of natural resources and agriculture. Employing local methods to manage various natural resources by generations of farmers and nomadic peoples has developed and preserved precious unique landscapes and agricultural systems.
The development model promoted in the last decades has not only shown to be ineffective to solve the economic problems of many rural areas but also contributed to the loss of cultural values associated with rural communities. This has brought to the degradation of valuable landscapes shaped by several generations of farmers, to the abandonment of millions of hectares of farmed land and urbanization processes, creating social degradation and increasing urban sprawl. Agriculture is often considered as one of the main drivers of the degradation of the ecosystems. Nevertheless, when agriculture is practiced sustainably, it can preserve landscape, biocultural diversity, protect watersheds, and improve soil health and water quality. The use of sustainable ecological practices is a key feature distinguishing resilient agriculture developed over centuries, ensuring sustainable yield over time, using reduced external energy inputs and adapting to difficult and diverse environmental conditions. The identification, documentation, and safeguard of agricultural heritage systems intend to contribute to a new vision integrating human society and the environment, according to the sustainable development goals, but taking landscape as a unifying perspective.
Cenesta, in association with the Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism of Iran, studied 8 sites of agricultural heritage in 4 main climates of Iran. Each of these 8 sites has its unique genuine way of managing the resources to overcome natural obstacles and sustainably secure their livelihoods within ages.