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soil building

Restoring Spain’s degraded farmland with regenerative agroforestry, with Alfonzo Chico de Guzman, president of AlVelAl

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As I’m slowly becoming better connected here in Spain in the last year, one of the main projects in regenerative agriculture that keeps coming up in my research and the conversations that I have, is a fairly new project called AlVelAl which is located in Southern Spain, roughly in between the cities of Granada and Murcia. The name AlVelAl relates to the first letters of the comarcas (or counties) where the initiative started: Altiplano de Granada, Los Vélez and Alto ALmanzora. Today, the AlVelAl territory covers more than 1,000,000 hectares of degraded steppe called the Altiplano Estepario. 

I first found a connection with this organization through some other work that I was doing to help consult on the Ecosystem Restoration Camp known as Camp Alitplano which is actually a 5 hectare portion of the largest farm in the organization where they’re trialing various agroforestry and holistic grazing techniques in an effort to restore the degraded site though economically viable production methods. The coordinator of the camp who I’d been in touch with connected me with the owner of the larger farm who also happens to be the president of AlVelal, Alfonzo Chico de Guzman. 

Now Alfonzo is a unique example of a young man who decided to return to his origins on the land and help to his family farm after graduating with a degree in business administration. He immediately dedicated himself to transforming the farm through innovative and regenerative methods and set up an organic market garden as well as fruit production, and began to develop agroforestry methods through systems involving almonds and pistachios. He’s also implemented broad water harvesting earthworks with swales on contour and keyline ponds to help to restore the watershed of this parched and arid region. Aided by a team of international non-profit organizations he’s become instrumental in showcasing and pioneering many dryland agriculture best practices and helping to motivate other producers in the region to follow suit. 

In this episode we talk about many of those methods that I glossed over as well as the overall response from the community in this transition. We discuss barriers to progress and the challenges and roadblocks that he and others have faced in transitioning their farms as well as some of the successes along the way. 

I was really excited to tap into such an inspiring movement and am really looking forward to working more actively with both Alvelal and Ecosystem Restoration camps here in Spain as these projects continue to grow. So look out for updates in future episodes if you enjoy this talk

Resources:

https://alvelal.wixsite.com/website-6

Alvelal YT channel

https://earthmind.org/vca/alvelal

https://eu.patagonia.com/gb/en/actionworks/grantees/alvelal/

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