What Lives in Menorcan Dry Stone Walls?

HINT: There is over 12.000 km of dry stone walls in Menorca, which, besides separating plots is a refuge for biodiversity.

#RootedEveryday

HINT: There is over 12.000 km of dry stone walls in Menorca, which, besides separating plots is a refuge for biodiversity.

#RootedEveryday

Menorcan Land Stewardship: Health, Nature and Proximity

Menorca is a Spanish island located in the western Mediterranean Sea and declared as a Reserve of the Biosphere since 1993 and second biggest Balearic Island. The countryside is a mosaic of fields, which have been conserved over millennia and are the key to ecological conservation. This mosaic combines cultivated fields with space for wild vegetation intersected by large dry stone walls. In fact, there are over 12.000 km of dry stone walls in Menorca, which, besides separating plots are a refuge to animal life and vegetation.

Menorcan Land Stewardship: Health, Nature and Proximity

Menorca is a Spanish island located in the western Mediterranean Sea and declared as a Reserve of the Biosphere since 1993 and second biggest Balearic Island. The countryside is a mosaic of fields, which have been conserved over millennia and are the key to ecological conservation. This mosaic combines cultivated fields with space for wild vegetation intersected by large dry stone walls. In fact, there are over 12.000 km of dry stone walls in Menorca, which, besides separating plots are a refuge to animal life and vegetation.

This unique landscape and its associated biodiversity is the result of the agrarian activity during thousands of years. Indeed, human and animal cohabitation have been constricted for so long that now the large number of animals and plants we find depend to a large extent on the maintenance of an adequate agrarian management. Where there is responsible management, you’ll discover many insects and seeds, which feed the small mammals and birds. They, in turn, contribute to maintain all the richness of the food web formed by wild life.

All photographs © GOB Menorca

This unique landscape and its associated biodiversity is the result of the agrarian activity during thousands of years. Indeed, human and animal cohabitation have been constricted for so long that now the large number of animals and plants we find depend to a large extent on the maintenance of an adequate agrarian management. Where there is responsible management, you’ll discover many insects and seeds, which feed the small mammals and birds. They, in turn, contribute to maintain all the richness of the food web formed by wild life.

Even today, farming affects more than 70% of Menorcan land. However, during the last decades two alarming trends have appeared. On the one side, many farmers are abandoning their work because they cannot find a way in which they can survive in an economic climate which has changed so much. On the other side, intensive farming practices have been introduced aiming to find the largest and short term economic benefit.

Both trends have many negative effects on biodiversity and landscape conservation. The solution lies in such an agricultural management that is beneficial to the environment and which, in turn, confers differentiation and added value to the products on the basis of health, nature and proximity. This way farmers can compete in a global market that is lowering prices and sustain their activity in the long-term. The good news is that this type of agricultural management exists and that is what the GOB Land Stewardship Program promotes.

The Land Stewardship Programme

The Balearic Ornithology and Nature Defence Group (GOB) is a local environmentalist NGO aimed at preserving Menorca, its beautiful landscape and natural values. One of its key drivers is the Land Stewardship Programme, which promotes a sustainable agrarian sector for the  island. This programme advocates the need for sustainable land management based on the values of Health, Nature and Proximity:

Health refers to the nutritional value of the food produced and the absence of toxic chemicals. We are what we eat, and these products bring health to consumers.

Nature benefits because the farms are managed to maintain the territorial elements where wild biodiversity and the mosaic landscape are sustained.

Proximity represents the local economy and the reduction of the energy footprint of the resulting products.

The sum of the three values, health, nature and proximity, is what gives a holistic added value to the products of the Land Stewardship Programme.

By creating strategic alliances with local farmers, the programme helps improve farm’s sustainability. GOB supports farmers through the promotion of their products, direct investments to improve their infrastructure, capacity-building and volunteering. The final objective is to ensure that environmentally sustainable farms are also socially fair and economically profitable, so that they can maintain their activity in the long-term. The idea behind the Land Stewardship Programme is to involve all stakeholders (farm owners and managers, society/consumers and politicians) in the preservation of the environment. Farmers commit themselves to a series of sustainable management practices through a Land Stewardship Agreement, and GOB channels different types of support and recognition to them in return.

The programme aims to form a network of farms that can serve as an example to inspire the necessary reconversion of the agricultural sector in Menorca and acts as a platform for the farmers to work together in maintaining this economic activity that can offer many benefits to the environment and the local community.

What challenges do we face?

Environmental challenges: land degradation and erosion, the homogenisation of the countryside, water scarcity and loss of biodiversity are some of the consequences of unsustainable management. GOB helps farmers to find beneficial management practices by installing and restoring rainwater harvesting systems, installing nesting boxes, analysing soil and implementing innovative systems (e.g. planned grazing and key line) to restore soil fertility, among many other actions. GOB also monitors the impact of the measures in the farm’s biodiversity.

Cultural challenges: loss of ethnological elements, poor status of women in rural culture and loss of agrobiodiversity (ancient breeds, local varieties) are some trends present nowadays in Menorcan countryside. GOB intends to reverse these trends by restoring traditional infrastructure for water management, installing gates made from olive trees, organising conferences for rural women and publishing handbooks about native animal breeds and vegetable varieties.

Traditional rainwater harvesting system. © GOB Menorca

Social challenges: poor social prestige of the farming sector, poor working conditions and lack of new employment opportunities for young people in agriculture and stock-breeding are problems common to the agricultural sector everywhere. GOB tries to face them by spotlighting this sector as the main guard of the landscape, by raising awareness about the added value of their products (among adult consumers and young students) and by drawing attention to the rich biodiversity and ecological value of the land they manage.

Economic challenges: to maintain all the long-term social and environmental benefits it’s necessary to ensure that businesses make a viable profit. GOB supports farmers to reduce their dependency on external inputs to minimize their costs, offers capacity-building activities to increase the efficiency of their working methods and promotes their products and opens new marketing channels.

Students learn about the value of sustainable food production. © GOB Menorca

What challenges do we face?

Environmental challenges: land degradation and erosion, the homogenisation of the countryside, water scarcity and loss of biodiversity are some of the consequences of unsustainable management. GOB helps farmers to find beneficial management practices by installing and restoring rainwater harvesting systems, installing nesting boxes, analysing soil and implementing innovative systems (e.g. planned grazing and key line) to restore soil fertility, among many other actions. GOB also monitors the impact of the measures in the farm’s biodiversity.

Cultural challenges: loss of ethnological elements, poor status of women in rural culture and loss of agrobiodiversity (ancient breeds, local varieties) are some trends present nowadays in Menorcan countryside. GOB intends to reverse these trends by restoring traditional infrastructure for water management, installing gates made from olive trees, organising conferences for rural women and publishing handbooks about native animal breeds and vegetable varieties.

Traditional rainwater harvesting system. © GOB Menorca

Social challenges: poor social prestige of the farming sector, poor working conditions and lack of new employment opportunities for young people in agriculture and stock-breeding are problems common to the agricultural sector everywhere. GOB tries to face them by spotlighting this sector as the main guard of the landscape, by raising awareness about the added value of their products (among adult consumers and young students) and by drawing attention to the rich biodiversity and ecological value of the land they manage.

Economic challenges: to maintain all the long-term social and environmental benefits it’s necessary to ensure that businesses make a viable profit. GOB supports farmers to reduce their dependency on external inputs to minimize their costs, offers capacity-building activities to increase the efficiency of their working methods and promotes their products and opens new marketing channels.

Students learn about the value of sustainable food production. © GOB Menorca

Economically sustainable ecological farms for a better future

The Land Stewardship Programme helped Maria Tudurí restore the Es Capell de Ferro farm. It was an abandoned property, which is now producing all organically certified food, ranging from animal products to vegetables and jams. Her clients highly value her products and many wait patiently for her weekly veggie basket.

A Farm Needs Two Things to Succeed

Adapting the amount of livestock to the land’s capacity so that the production can be self-sufficient and the external inputs are minimized; and selling products directly to consumers, so that fair prices both for farmer and consumer can be kept.

Maria Tudurí sells organic products from Es Capell de Ferro farm, Spain, which she runs entirely on her own.

Be #RootedEveryday
#MedFoodHeroes

© GOB Menorca

A Farm Needs Two Things to Succeed

Adapting the amount of livestock to the land’s capacity so that the production can be self-sufficient and the external inputs are minimized; and selling products directly to consumers, so that fair prices both for farmer and consumer can be kept.

Maria Tudurí sells organic products from Es Capell de Ferro farm, Spain, which she runs entirely on her own.

Be #RootedEveryday
#MedFoodHeroes

© GOB Menorca

A Farm Needs Two Things to Succeed

Adapting the amount of livestock to the land’s capacity so that the production can be self-sufficient and the external inputs are minimized; and selling products directly to consumers, so that fair prices both for farmer and consumer can be kept.

Maria Tudurí sells organic products from Es Capell de Ferro farm, Spain, which she runs entirely on her own.

Be #RootedEveryday
#MedFoodHeroes

© GOB Menorca

Maria rents 95 hectares which she farms using ecologically sustainable methods. She raises traditional Menorcan brown cows for meat; grows oats for animal food; clover for animal silage; and barley which she grinds for pig feed. She has black pigs for meat and from which she makes sobrassada, and chickens whose eggs she sells. Besides the weekly basket with vegetables and eggs, she sells through local organic shops and at many fairs and summer markets. Together GOB and Maria restored the farm’s rainwater storage system as well.

Tasting the difference – home-grown vegetables, ripened under the Menorcan sun

Sergio Riudavets is one of few youngsters that chose farming as his profession. With help from the programme he restored Santo Domingo farm with his parents Mari and Toni to produce certified organic fruits and vegetables. The farm had been in the family for generations, but had been left unused for seven years.

Organic Farming is not Difficult or New, it’s how Things Used to be Done

Farming vegetables organically is no more difficult than farming them conventionally, it just takes more time. We can’t spray the ground with herbicides, so all the weeding has to be done by hand, and we can’t speed up the growing process with fertilisers, we just have to let the crops mature at their own speed.

Words of wisdom from Sergio Riudavets a young organic farmer from Santo Domingo, Menorca, Spain.

Be #RootedEveryday
#MedFoodHeroes

© GOB Menorca

Organic Farming is not Difficult or New, it’s how Things Used to be Done

Farming vegetables organically is no more difficult than farming them conventionally, it just takes more time. We can’t spray the ground with herbicides, so all the weeding has to be done by hand, and we can’t speed up the growing process with fertilisers, we just have to let the crops mature at their own speed.

Words of wisdom from Sergio Riudavets a young organic farmer from Santo Domingo, Menorca, Spain.

Be #RootedEveryday
#MedFoodHeroes

© GOB Menorca

Organic Farming is not Difficult or New, it’s how Things Used to be Done

Farming vegetables organically is no more difficult than farming them conventionally, it just takes more time. We can’t spray the ground with herbicides, so all the weeding has to be done by hand, and we can’t speed up the growing process with fertilisers, we just have to let the crops mature at their own speed.

Words of wisdom from Sergio Riudavets a young organic farmer from Santo Domingo, Menorca, Spain.

Be #RootedEveryday
#MedFoodHeroes

© GOB Menorca

The farm’s simple one-room shop sells seasonal, freshly harvested vegetables, some varieties of which are unique to Menorca. Shoppers can also buy sauces and jams made by mum Mari. Products like their strawberries are in high demand at the local market. They sell directly from their farm, as well as at the organic weekly market or through various local organic shops. They also supply some local schools with healthy vegetables for the school menu.

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