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 mobilized 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 association AlVelAl, 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.
Already in 2016, AlVelAl launched its first business case, La Almendrehesa, to process and market regenerative produce from the almendrehesa ecosystem. Initially, the business case focuses on regenerative almonds, building on the Altiplano’s expertise in rain-fed organic almond production. Later, La Almendrehesa will expand its focus to other products such as wine, cereals, honey, aromatic herbs and olives from the local Segureño lamb. 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. AlVelAl aims to increase the source of income for farmers by connecting local producers to the touristic centers on the coast, and promoting the territory as a touristic destination.
In the meantime, AlVelAl has begun actively restoring natural zones by planting 50,000 native, drought-resistant trees on the iconic La Muela mountain. The organisation is also involved in a number of inspirational projects designed to draw attention to the area, such as ‘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 colors changing with the seasons. At the same time, the organisation continues to develop 4 Returns business cases for olive oil from centennial trees and compost.