The challenge:

Why we are restoring degraded landscapes in the Altiplano of Spain

By: John D. Liu

As part of a Commonland Foundation delegation I visited Spain in May to learn of the activities of the AlVeLal Cooperative to restore ecological function to a vast area of the Andalusia Altiplano in Granada and Murcia. This is part of a large band of the northern Mediterranean which has suffered desertification from causes including improper grazing methods and extractive monoculture methods of agriculture. In Granada I visited the farm of Alfonso Chico de Guzman who has already taken Geoff Lawton’s PDC Course, has designed a “Sepp Holzer” style water retention landscape, has planted Permaculture orchards and is experimenting with swales. Alfonso has offered us a 5-hectare area on his property to locate a restoration camp for a 5-year period. Our job there is simply to restore hydrological and ecological functioning.
More information about AlVeLal Cooperative
The AlVeLal Cooperative is working in the same region using biodiverse methods to restore ecological function to former monoculture almond orchards, incorporating aromatic plants which will provide needed vegetation and attract pollinators, and bringing in a native species of lambs to build soil and protect against fire by grazing vegetation. This video from AlVeLal also illustrates how the local economy can benefit as well:

Camping as a practical solution:

Closely following on the damage to ecosystems, there has also been a migration of people to urban areas because of a lack of productive work. On Alfonso’s farm I saw that his efforts in restoration were hindered by a lack of people in the region who could help. Meanwhile young people are asking me daily where they can train in restoration skills. When I put these two needs together it became clear that camping would be a cost-effective way to do restoration and also to train large numbers of people in the precise skills necessary.

Permaculture training in restoration camps:

Around the world there are large numbers of people who are craving yearning for a hands on learning experience that combines theory around ecosystem restoration, with a chance to restore the land in practice. Each Ecosystem Restoration Camp will act as a learning centre where people can come and learn how to restore ecosystems through doing. Part of this learning experience involves supporting local farmers who have land around the camps to transition to regenerative agriculture and restore natural ecosystems around their farmland too.

Building an Ecosystem Restoration Camp:

To support the camps project we join together as a global movement. The restoration work that is needed for the whole of society to mitigate and adapt to climate change is also work that can make individuals, families, communities and everyone’s lives as sustainable and resilient as possible. While there needs to be a Foundation to give us legal status, members of the cooperative have been working as volunteers and this will continue as much as possible. When it is necessary to have paid staff we will seek to employ people in the region of the camps to build a connection with the local economy and culture.

About the Camps

The first camp is being set up in the southern Spanish Altiplano.