As desert-like conditions have begun to take over fertile regions of Almeria, Granada and Murcia in southern Spain, an eco-business movement called Alvelal is attempting to reverse the phenomenon through a holistic approach to environmental protection.
The area between Andalusia in the south and the northern region of Catalonia has lost more than a million hectares to arid environmental conditions, which had prompted an alliance of farmers, entrepreneurs, developers, and non-profit donors to implement a 20-year action plan to replenish the soil and hopefully reverse any further desertification.
The original idea came from Commonland, a Dutch NGO which has applied the Green Wall approach in South Africa and Australia. The approach entails ancient farming techniques, rural development initiatives, and the mobilisation of both the public and private sectors.
Commonland crowdfunds €5.2 million a year, which it spends on environmental projects in 11 countries around Europe. In Spain, they have crowdfunded most of €1,3 million required for the programme since 2014.
The UN, in 2014, drew up a proposal for the recovery of 350 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 at the cost of €730 billion. There are currently two billion hectares suffering from general degradation, an area that is twice the size of China.
Science, technology, governments, businesses, and the non-profit sector are monitoring areas that are considered ‘at risk’, including the Mediterranean region, which is a particular crisis zone that the UN has tracked for the last decade.
Many of the methods used by Alvelal in Spain and elsewhere are founded on ancient agricultural techniques such as the introduction of nitrogen back to the soil through the cultivation of different species of grass and leguminous plants.
The project promotes the cultivation of tree-based crops such as almonds, olive oil, aromatic plants and the production of honey, beer, wine, and organic lamb.
One of the new ideas floated in Spain is to add “regenerative agriculture” to the biological agriculture certifications. Another is the mobilisation of resources from gastronomic tourism to the service of more sustainable – and more expensive – agricultural practices.