Partners
Hectares

1,000,000

Active since

2014

Area

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.

AlVelAl is one of those unique projects you hear about but never actually see. Until now. This is a unique opportunity for us all.
Antonio Maurandi, farmer and member AlVelAl

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’.

Inspirational projects are the seed to engage more people.
Elvira Marín, coordinator AlVelAl

Photography by AlVelAl & Commonland

Inspiration
Giving people hope and a sense of purpose.
Social Capital
Bringing back jobs, business activity, education and security.
Natural Capital
Restoring biodiversity, soil, water quality and capturing carbon.
Financial Capital
Realizing long-term sustainable profit.

Current status

In 2018 AlVelAl and its partners inspired more than 1,000 people and 85 proud farmers to become part of AlVelAl.

 

Scope

By 2020 AlVelAl aims to have 100 proud farmers inspired and mobilised.

Current status

The AlVelAl membership of mostly local farmers and entrepreneurs is now 200 members.

Scope

The coming years we expect to engage with over 2000 active members, and AlVelAl is an example of collective action for restoration with many initiatives sprouting.

Current status

Together with Ecosia, AlVelAl planted 50,000 native trees on La Muela. So far a total of 7,700 hectares has been brought under improved holistic management. Hundreds of beehives are installed on the AlVelAl farms, many farmers are using compost, green cover, and more than 70 km key line swales were implemented.

Scope

By 2020 AlVelAl expects to have 15,000 hectares under improved nature management by farmers. Also AlVelAl will continue to work on natural zone restoration, both on public and on private lands.

Current status

In first active year (2018) La Almendrehesa sold almost 100 tons of regenerative almonds. In addition to the farmer shareholders, farmer cooperations have supplied almonds as well. Proving the increased interest of farmers to supply produce to La Almendrehesa.

Scope

We are aiming for twenty 4 Returns business cases conducive to landscape restoration. Business cases for regenerative centennial olive oil and compost are already being developed and cases for aromatics and regenerative (rotational) Segureño lamb meat are in the planning.

Zones

The 4 Returns holistic framework breaks down landscape restoration into 3 distinct landscape zones – natural, economic and combined.

Natural zone
Combined zone
Economic zone

 

Regenerating a landscape’s ecological foundation by restoring and protecting native vegetation, trees, and biodiversity.
La Muela, the iconic mountain AlVelAl is restoring

La Muela, the iconic mountain AlVelAl is restoring

Activities

Restoring natural zones such as La Muela; facilitating restoration of natural zones on farms to implement measures to retain water, soil and to promote biodiversity; engagement and mobilisation of farmers, community members and other stakeholders; research & development, monitoring, evaluation, and learning.

Restoring the topsoil and biodiversity, and delivering sustainable economic returns through regenerative agriculture, agroforestry and rotational grazing.
Regenerative almond agriculture in the combined zone of the Altiplano. In the back: the natural zone of the national park Velez Maria.

Regenerative almond agriculture in the combined zone of the Altiplano. In the back: the natural zone of the national park Velez Maria.

Activities 

Facilitating restoration of natural zones on farms to implement measures to retain water, soil and to promote biodiversity; facilitating transition to regenerative agriculture (through workshops, pilots) to retain water and soil and to promote biodiversity; engagement and mobilisation of farmers, community members and other stakeholders; research & development; monitoring, evaluation and learning.

 

To deliver sustainable economic productivity with dedicated areas for value-adding activities like processing. This zone is typically concentrated in urban areas.

Harvesting almonds in fall

Harvesting almonds in fall

Activities 

La Almendrehesa: processing and marketing of regenerative almonds; pre-developing 4 Returns business cases and other interventions to facilitate landscape restoration such as centennial olive oil, aromatic oils and compost; engagement and mobilisation of farmers, community members and other stakeholders; research & development; monitoring, evaluation and learning.