By Celsa Peiteado, WWF Spain

The COVID-19 crisis has shown us the vulnerability of our production systems, and more specifically, the need to maintain a production of healthy, good quality local food, while supporting those with knowledge on cultural practices key for the agro-ecological transition to sustainable and resilient food systems. During the first half of this year, the Dehesas and Montados project closely monitored the impact of the pandemic on extensive livestock farming, and contributed to actions in defense of this sector, hard hit by the closure of slaughterhouses, direct sales points to consumers, local markets, restaurants and hotels in Spain and Portugal.

To alleviate the impact of the pandemic on dehesas and montados, we promoted actions (#SOSCampesinado campaign) aimed at demanding that the government and its relevant ministries (Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Consumption and Health) implement measures to support the agri-food production of small-scale farming and agro-ecology. We also worked to promote and highlight farmers’ efforts through the #AplausosqueAlimentan campaign, thanking them for continuing their work despite the many difficulties they are faced with.

Photo credit: Asociación Trashumancia y Naturaleza

Coupled with this, we analyzed the barriers and opportunities facing extensive livestock farming, especially sheep and goats, in a joint report between Asociación Trashumancia y Naturaleza, WWF Spain and IUCN. Among the highlights, and on which we are already working, is the need for public infrastructures (such as slaughterhouses and municipal cutting rooms) that allow farming products to be marketed directly by the farmers, as well as the identification of sanitary and hygiene regulations that are not suitable for application in small-scale production. Meanwhile, we continued working on the farm, helping with the movement of transhumant herds and calling attention to the difficulties that shepherds and livestock face every day through social media.

In Portugal, work has been increasingly focused on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) at the state level as policy and advocacy work was possible during the lockdown. Priority was given to the development of CAP’s future Strategic Plan: we met with state officials in charge, and presented proposals for the plan. At the same time, we partnered with Herdade do Freixo do Meio to promote meat and recipes using sustainably-produced food, and continued to develop payment for ecosystem services in the area by engaging with retailers to source meat from the region.

Meet #MedFoodHero Ambassador: Renato Álvarez

Renato Álvarez was born into a “neo-rural” family who were trailblazers of organic farming in Andalusia. They were also members of the first social movements and associations dedicated to the production and organic food. Since he was little he was involved in agriculture until he decided to study Environmental Sciences at the Pablo de Olavide University (Seville).

Meet #MedFoodHero Ambassador: Fábio Bernadino

Fábio Bernardino is a Chef, the CEO of Travel & Flavours, a teacher, gastronomic consultant, trainer and event organizer; a young Chef whose excellence opened the doors to major Portuguese hotels and restaurants, like the Pestana Hotéis & Resorts group or the Heritage Lisboa Hotels, where he left his mark of professionalism and rigour. With a great passion for cooking, and especially for pastry, he started his career at the age of 14, when he attended the Professional Cooking and Pastry Course of the Lisbon Hotel and Tourism School.

Meet #MedFoodHero Ambassador: Alfredo Sendim

Alfredo Cunhal Sendim was born in Porto and spent his childhood between Lisbon (the city), Montemor-o-Novo (the countryside) and Ferragudo (the sea). Studied veterinary and zoo technical. In 1990 he moved to the Monte of Herdade do Freixo do Meio, a territory where, step by step, he has been developing a structural project in the agricultural and social field.

Meet #MedFoodHeroes Ambassador: Sahar Elhallak

Nine years ago, Sahar left her home in California and landed in Morocco in a quest to find herself. While she started a new life in Marrakech, she found some challenges to find restaurants that catered to vegetarians like herself. Since she always enjoyed hosting dinner parties and food-related fundraising events, she started cooking for friends which grew into welcoming people into her beautifully restored hundred-year-old house, for unique culinary experiences.

Meet #MedFoodHeroes Ambassador: Najat Kaanache

Born to Moroccan parents in a small town near San Sebastian in Spain, Najat Kaanache has been cooking at home since childhood. Now based between the US, Mexico and Morocco. She now creates magic in the kitchen as the owner and chef of the beautiful restaurant Nur in the ancient medina of Fez, named World’s Best Moroccan Restaurant in 2017, 2018 and 2019. She also opened CÚS (a Moroccan bistro in the heart of Mexico City) and Nacho Mama (a funky Mexican cantina in the medina of Fez).

Meet #MedFoodHeroes Ambassador: Driss Mellal

Driss Mellal was born in a small town in the south of Morocco, near the beautiful Dades valley. His love for cooking started at the age of 20, when he was in art school in southern France. He missed Moroccan food and flavours and so started cooking and experimenting himself. After graduating from art school, he didn’t work in the arts as planned, but instead went to culinary school. “I finally got to combine my art background with new cooking skills, and it became the start of a new life for me,” Driss says.

Sheep to Combat Climate Change

Asociación Trashumancia y Naturaleza collaborated with the city council of Madrid to organise the annual Fiesta de la Trashumancia Madrid 2019 (Transhumance Festival)—which saw 1800 sheep and 200 goats pass through the centre of Spain’s capital city. The event, now in its 26th year, was successful in creating awareness on the importance of maintaining this ancestral practice of which Spain is a global example and that is a very valuable tool in the fight against climate change and rural depopulation, among other benefits.

Travelling with Birds

In September last year, we set out to observe and learn about migratory birds and their flight paths. Joined by local and international bird experts, we worked alongside the Hima Hammana community to observe the birds that flew overhead, while learning from the experts about bird monitoring processes.