Regenerative farming practices are restoring a deforested, desertifying area of Spain

The Altiplano in southern Spain is an area of about 630,000 hectares. Over the centuries, it has been heavily deforested, and can now be best described as a degraded semi-arid steppe and forest system.

But now, it’s quickly turning into a desert, primarily as a consequence of centuries of damaging farming, overgrazing livestock practices and climate change.

In 2014, the Amsterdam-based non-profit, Commonland, started working with a local group of passionate farmers, landowners and entrepreneurs to jointly develop the path towards landscape restoration using the 4 returns framework and Theory U. A fast-growing group of local farmers established the AlVelAl association, teaming up with the government, businesses and research institutions.

In 2015, the AlVelAl association united more farmers to promote “4 returns” landscape restoration initiatives. Over the past year, Commonland’s role has changed from that of an initiator/implementer towards that of a strategic advisor, thus allowing maximum space and opportunity for AlVelAl to develop as a professional association for sustainable rural development and regenerative agriculture, and strengthen local ownership and initiative.

Together with AlVelAl, Commonland is working on rolling out regenerative farming practices; development of “4 returns” businesses promoting regenerative produce and that help restore the landscape; and restoration of degraded natural areas. Currently, over 20 farmers are applying regenerative farming practices and the number keeps increasing.

In 2016, as a key example of “4 returns” business development, La Almendrehesa was established, the first processing and marketing company for high-quality regenerative almonds. This means that the farmers take measures to decrease erosion, restore the water balance, enhance biodiversity and thereby restore and beautify the landscape.

La Almendrehesa has secured multiple international buyers (business-to-business) for its first harvests, regeneratively cultivated by various AlVelAl-associated farmers. The consumer brand “Pepitas de oro” has been established and consumer packages are now ready to go to market in the region.

They continued our support towards the 4 returns fund, kick-starting 4 returns business cases of AlVelAl members and providing inspiring examples on sustainable landscape restoration in Andalusia.

The first steps have been taken to implement regenerative actions in 6 farms of partners of AlVelAl (2,313 hectares), which is being enabled by a grant from the Wates Foundation. In summer, AlVelAl will launch a pilot fund for regenerative farming to allow the broader membership of Alvelal to implement regenerative practices as well. We foresee to, eventually, implement 10 pilots.

In the field of natural zone restoration, of course together with AlVelAl, we have started our pilot on the iconic La Muela mountain: a test with cocoons on La Muela supported by the Wates Foundation. While preparing this Newsflash the latest terrific news came in that tree-planting search engine Ecosia donated 50,000 trees to AlVelAl for planting in La Muela. These trees are being planted by the volunteers from John D. Liu’s restoration camp.

Now that we are entering the stage of proof of concept, significant resources are required. Therefore, a lot of attention is on fundraising for grant and investment capital. Securing a stable financial basis behind the landscape activities will remain a key priority for the Spanish and Amsterdam teams in the upcoming period.

See Commonland website & photo credits.

See Alvelal website.

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