Spain

Landscape partners

AlVelAl, La Almendrehesa, Habitát

Landscape

Altiplano Estepario, South-Eastern Spain

Total area (ha)

1,000,000

Stakeholders

350+

Business cases identified or set up

2

Active since

2014 (baseline established in 2016)

Mission in the landscape

 

The semi-arid steppe Altiplano Estepario in Southern Spain is characterised by water scarcity, extreme climate conditions and soil erosion. This challenging landscape and the lack of economic opportunity forced many to find a living elsewhere. It also offers the potential for ambitious large-scale restoration. Sustainable business cases can bring back prosperity to these 1,000,000 hectares of dryland.

In 2014, Commonland mobilised local farmers, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders, to establish the member association AlVelAl. Together we support the transition to regenerative agriculture at scale to create the demand for regenerative produce and restore natural zones on farms and public land.

 

What happened in 2020?

Throughout 2020, AlVelAl worked with 180 farmers to roll out regenerative practices on their farms. The transition to regenerative agriculture starts with inspiration through workshops and agroexperiencias, through which one AlVelAl farmer shows what regenerative agriculture entails on his or her farm. This can be about making swales, water infiltration lines on farms, compost or green cover. Once inspired and ready for action, AlVelAl offers small co-funding for farmers to pilot regenerative practices. The Seed Fund 2020 thus gave farmers green cover on 260 hectares, for example. Lastly, to support learning, AlVelAl developed and rolled out an evaluation system to track on-farm progress to 80 farms.

To support local entrepreneurship, AlVelAl launched the Ideas Fund 2020 and the 4 Returns Awvards 2020. AlVelAl supports twenty entrepreneurs through these funds to start or upscale regenerative business projects in the AlVelAl territory.  

Transforming the landscape through increasing green cover.

La Almendrehesa and Hábitat

In 2016, AlVelAl kickstarted its first farmer-driven 4Returns company La Almendrehesa, which offers high-quality, regenerative, organic almonds. In 2020, the company purchased 95 tons of regenerative almonds from 36 farmers. In 2020, a second 4 Returns business was launched: HábiTat, which processes and markets regenerative olive oil from the Altiplano. 

Furthermore, AlVelAl has strengthened its business development strategy to promote direct sales of all regenerative produce. AlVelAl Foods’ strategy and consumer brand will be operationalised and launched in 2021, enabling other 4Returns businesses – for honey, wine and vegetables – to join our dream and jointly transform the Altiplano. This boosts the potential of the AlVelAl network to move forward towards thriving landscapes and communities collectively.

 

Restoring Natural Zones

 

To restore natural zones, the focus has been on the natural areas on farms as well as on public lands. Ongoing restoration of public lands La Muela & El Cortijico meant that 30,000 trees were planted. As part of a pilot, a drone planted 200,000+ seeds in El Cotijico. We worked on a public-private partnership agreement with the Junta de Andalucia to restore the public land of Cortijo del Conejo. On top of that, we elaborated the natural zone restoration plan, including natural areas in Murcia and the “Vía Verde” in Baza.

 

“I own land in Almería as a farmer. When my grandfather died, I had a strong wish to start with regenerating landscapes. I am very grateful to Commonland. They showed trust and were the first to initiate the change we are looking for. They make our work visible and are here to make a systematic change.”

- Antonio Maurandi López, farmer and board member of AlvelAl

Farmer Antonio Juan García with one of his pistachio trees in Albox, Spain.

20 Million
People exposed to the opportunity of 4 Returns landscape restoration
> 30
Direct and indirect jobs created or supported
8,000
Hectares under improved regenerative/restoration management
2
Business cases identified or set up by landscape partners
  • 2020
  • Altiplano Estepario
  • 1 : 70

5-year ambition:

10,000+ people exposed to the opportunity of 4 returns landscape restoration, including 400+ community members & 200+ farmers & 10+ inspired initiatives.

5-year ambition:

10,000 ha under regenerative management farming and 20,000 ha positively influenced; 8,000 ha of corridors between 3 parks established reforested successful.

5-year ambition:

500+ AlVelAl members and 100+ farmers participate
in restoration through regenerative agriculture & natural land managements, 5+ partnerships and 30+ jobs supported or created.

5-year ambition:

Increased flow of funds (> 1,000,000 EUR) toward
4 returns initiatives and 5 investors committed.

2020 Spain

  • Altiplano Estepario
  • 1 : 70

20 Million
People exposed to the opportunity of 4 Returns landscape restoration
  • 2020
5-year ambition:

10,000+ people exposed to the opportunity of 4 returns landscape restoration, including 400+ community members & 200+ farmers & 10+ inspired initiatives.

> 30
Direct and indirect jobs created or supported
  • 2020
5-year ambition:

10,000 ha under regenerative management farming and 20,000 ha positively influenced; 8,000 ha of corridors between 3 parks established reforested successful.

8,000
Hectares under improved regenerative/restoration management
  • 2020
5-year ambition:

500+ AlVelAl members and 100+ farmers participate
in restoration through regenerative agriculture & natural land managements, 5+ partnerships and 30+ jobs supported or created.

2
Business cases identified or set up by landscape partners
  • 2020
5-year ambition:

Increased flow of funds (> 1,000,000 EUR) toward
4 returns initiatives and 5 investors committed.

Stories of change

The Spanish highlands’ regeneration is a story of hope, inspiration, and practical solutions to reverse desertification in Spain. The documentary Head, Heart and Hands tells the journey of local farmers and their community – a group of social entrepreneurs in South East Spain who are transforming their lands to create a new economic model. One that gives back into the land more than it takes while improving economic returns and revitalising community life.

In November 2020, Seville’s European Film Festival and Barcelona’s International Environmental Film Festival featured Head, Heart and Hands. The December 2020 online premiere + Q&A with cast members and partner organisations was attended by almost 300 people of 31 nationalities worldwide.


In the past four years, Inspiration 4 Action and Intermedia Productions followed the farmers and entrepreneurs of southern Spain to capture their journey. AlVelAl and Commonland closely collaborated to make the documentary which was made possible thanks to the generous contributions of the Bertha Foundation and the Leopoldo Bachmann Stiftung.

 

“Inspiration is the magic that is created when people who have the same vision, the same passion, meet and realise, “I think the same, I am not alone.” This inspiration is the engine that propels change. It generates togetherness and a shared desire for change.”

- Astrid Vargas, founder Inspiration4Action and film director Head, Heart and Hands.