Altiplano, Andalusia / Murcia, Southern Spain
In the semi-arid steppe Altiplano Estepario in Southern Spain, water is scarce and climate conditions are extreme. In 2014, Commonland mobilised local farmers, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders and embarked on an ambitious large-scale dryland restoration initiative to halt desertification and erosion and bring back prosperity using Commonland’s 4 Returns framework. Today, united in the Aland foundation and the AlVelAl association, they are proving it is possible to transform even the most challenging landscapes based on sustainable business cases.
Our journey started with a co-initiation workshop focused on creating a 2034 vision for the Altiplano. The workshop led to the establishment of AlVelAl in 2015. Since then, AlVelAl has rolled out initiatives designed to facilitate and transition farmers to regenerative farming in the Altiplano. These initiatives have led to a substantial increase in the number of farmers today engaged in regenerative practices, which include making swales, restoring terraces, planting green cover and creating wind breaks in order to retain soil and water and enhance biodiversity. Watch here the storymap on the Spanish landscape.
Already in 2016, AlVelAl launched its first business case, La Almendrehesa, to process and market regenerative produce from the almendrehesa ecosystem. La Almendrehesa pays its farmers higher margins for their crops, which allows them to invest in their farms and to transition fully to regenerative agriculture. In 2020, following a similar model, AlVelAl launched a cooperative for regenerative olive oil called ‘Habitát’. Today, we are moving to the next level by creating a regenerative business ecosystem.
In this productive, regenerative ecosystem, farmers send their produce to 4 Returns companies such as La Almendrehesa or Habitát, who process and package the produce. These jointly regenerative processing companies combine and connect forces in AlVelAl Foods. This allows for a basket of regenerative products from the Altiplano to be sold directly to consumers. This inspires farmers to transition to regenerative farming and helps customers choose regenerative products that give back to nature.
The online shop of AlVelAl Foods will open its doors in late 2021, offering almonds, pistachios, walnuts, wine, honey, aromatic herbs, and olive oils, all produced to regenerate the local landscapes.
Next to facilitating the transition to regenerative farming and developing 4returns businesses, AlVelAl is actively restoring natural zones by optimising ecological functioning. Since 2017, we have restored both public lands and created biodiversity hotspots on farms. Up until 2020, we have planted 140,000 trees and sown 200,000 seeds by drone.
The organisation is also involved in a number of inspirational projects designed to share our story and inspire others to join us. One of these projects is ‘AlVelAl 8000’. Located at the base of La Muela, this living art sculpture reproduces the 8000-year old local cave art in living form, its colours changing with the seasons.
If you want to know more about AlVelAl and meet the farmers of the Altiplano, we invite you to take a look at this 15-minute video, ‘AlVelAl : A Real History’.