Meet the local heroes working with AlVelAl to restore the Altiplano

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AlVelAl territory
Natural parks
AlVelAl farmers

Meet the local heroes combining traditional and modern farming techniques in southern Spain. Through innovation and hard work, they restore life to the land and build resilient rural communities, while aligning food production with local ecosystems.

AlVelAl is working towards restoring the Altiplano: a semi-arid steppe landscape threatened by desertification. Restoring such an area is a monumental undertaking. It requires passion, a bold vision, adapting and learning and a strong sense of community.

There is currently a network of more than 100 farmers coming together to tackle this challenge. These local heroes collaborate and learn from each other as part of a growing community.

Farmers together with AlVelAl develop sustainable business cases to process and market regenerative produce – like almonds, lamb, olive oil, wine, aromatic herbs and honey - while implementing regenerative techniques that halt soil erosion, boost biodiversity and retain water. Thereby creating healthy landscapes as a foundation for resilient communities.

The group of farmers is diverse. Yet what unites them is the belief that together they can restore the Altiplano.

Now is your chance to take a virtual tour and get to know some of these local heroes.

Not yet familiar with this 4 Returns landscape? Find out more here.
More than 100,000ha rain-fed almonds grow in the Altiplano, making it the dominant crop in the territory.

Miguel Ángel Gómez

Miguel Ángel is a member of the AlVelAl technical team and a researcher at the University of Almería. He directly applies his knowledge on his farm to recover and nourish soil. Thus, giving his land the capacity to support integrated farming. As a researcher born into a farming family, Miguel leads the application of regenerative techniques through research and experimentation, while sharing his rich knowledge with other agricultural professionals. 

"We must develop agriculture based on common sense.”

Miguel Ángel grows ground cover crops as an effective way to retain water and promote soil fertility.

Encouraging diverse cover crops to grow is a technique being applied across the Altiplano.

Cultivating such diverse cover crops enhances soil healths and supports higher almond yields.

Antonio Juan Garcia

Antonio Juan is passionate about pistachio. He was one of Spain’s first farmers to start cultivating this tree crop; one which, he claims, requires less water than the almond tree. Currently, Antonio Juan manages two farms which produce almonds, pistachios, olives and aromatic herbs.  

"AlVelAl's approach is the only way to help the environment while respecting our traditions."

Antonio Juan uses regenerative interventions like green cover cropping and composting to transform his land.

These techniques support the production of almonds, olives and aromatic herbs.

Santiaga Sánchez

Santiaga is a shining example of an entrepreneurial rural woman. As a daughter and granddaughter of ranchers, the love of the land is deeply ingrained and from a young age, Santiaga decided to dedicate herself to integrated farming. Today, her family farm includes sheep, cereal, almonds, beekeeping and an eco-tourism project that revolves around enjoying regenerative agriculture “with all five senses”.  

“Before knowing the significance, my family were already practising agriculture that integrates livestock with almond crops.”
Santiaga produces segureño lamb: a heritage product famous to the Altiplano.

Antonio Maurandi

Antonio manages his grandfather’s farmhouse at Fuente Grande together with his brother and cousins. Their focus is to bring life back to a farm which has been a part of the family “forever” and has always been a special place to meet. The family now practices activities that will restore the farm into an abundant area for biodiversity.  

“I have always had the idea to regenerate, to favour nature and give it time to recover, but I did not call it regenerative agriculture. Now, it’s my legacy for future generations. ”

Fuente Grande offers breath-taking views of the magnificent and striking Altiplano landscape.

Replanting and regenerating almond trees is required to ensure sustainable income for the years ahead.

Almonds flowering at Fuente Grande; the distinctive pink flowers are in bloom between January and February, and nuts are harvested from August onwards.

Francisco Javier Egea

Javier is a faithful believer in regenerative agriculture and land restoration. After working as a banker, he returned home to enhance almond cultivation on his family farm and he now implements regenerative measures in practice. As a curious farmer, Javier experiments through trial and error to drive the development and act as a benchmark in the AlVelAl territory.

“I am increasingly convinced that we are on the right track. The traditional agricultural system is condemned to extinction due to the amount of CO2 emitted by tillage.”

Swales, like these at Javier's farm, are a regenerative technique being implemented across the Altiplano.

Swales slow the flow of water, preventing soil erosion and allowing the land to act as a sponge. This is vital in a landscape like the Altiplano where both droughts and torrential rains are common.

That gives plants a chance to establish themselves and leads to the regeneration of degraded land.

José Andrés Martinez

José Andrés Martínez is developing a “natural honey” based on local traditions. More than 80% of production takes place within a natural park and the bees help boost natural pollinator biodiversity. José plans to combine organic honey production with his own farm based on regenerative pistachio cultivation.

"Ecology limits you in many things, but the advantage is that organic honey has a much higher quality…there’s almost no comparison.”
José produces honey using traditional and artisanal methods

Familia Martinez Raya

The Martinez Raya family have been working at the Guadix farmhouse since 1997. Here the family explores their roots with the land, agriculture, and the people that once lived here. Across their farm, the cultivation of olive groves, vineyards, almond trees and horticulture is grounded in ecological practices. In this way, the Martinez Raya family aims to live with and from nature in the most sustainable way possible.

“Regenerative agriculture brings numerous benefits to our farm. We have seen that the techniques are both easier and cheaper and they result in higher quality and healthier products.”
The Martinez Raya family grows rosemary and thyme plants in-between trees.

Guillermo de Rueda

Guillermo de Rueda is an entrepreneur committed to the recovery and maintenance of a natural landscape. Guillermo is transforming his family farm, Los Gorros, into an eco-tourism lodge complete with renewable solar and hydroelectric energy. Situated in the heart of the Sierra de Los Alamos, plum and olive trees grow in terraced systems surrounded by mountains.

"I have found my place here. I am committed to recovering and making the most of the environment under a philosophy of maximum respect for the environment".

Los Gorros sits in the middle of the Sierra de Los Alamos. The farm is part of the Natura 2000 Network and offers special bird protection areas.

By creating biodiversity islands on-farm, AlVelAl farmers like Guillermo are supporting biodiversity across the region.

Maintaining rich biodiversity has positive effects on productive farm lands and its crops.

Juan Salvador Garcia

Juan Salvador García continues the work that his grandfather started on the farm. Almond trees and vineyards are terraced above a spectacular landscape. For both crops, Juan aligns regenerative techniques with traditional farming practices to retain soil and water. The existing terraces are combined with water catchment techniques to reduce soil erosion, while green cover is grown between the almond trees.

"With regenerative techniques, you see the results of your work. The soil and landscape speak for themselves."
The terraces and vegetation cover on the edges of farms and between almond lanes enriches the soil and positively transforms the landscape.

Roque Chacón

Roque Chacón is a farmer who, together with his brothers, has always helped to manage the family farm. The farm has a large natural area, pine trees and kermes oaks. Being surrounded by natural areas, the family appreciate that growing thyme and other native species on the slopes of their farms prevent soil erosion and are a great ally against pests.  

"The regenerative agricultural techniques are improving the farm. My father, despite his hesitation in the beginning, now sees how the techniques improve our farm.”

The terraces at the farm of Roque Chacón prevent soil erosion and slow the movement of water when there are torrential rains

Despite the generational changes on the family farm, this old olive tree has been producing for decades.

The farmers working with AlVelAl regularly meet up to learn from each other. They exchange knowledge and experience gained through practical implementation of regenerative agriculture. As a network, the combined effort to restore the Altiplano also instills inspiration, making 4 Returns landscape restoration visible for other farmers, challenging and inviting them to collectively work towards an abundant landscape and thriving communities.

Watch the video below to hear from the farmers themselves. They explain just how regenerative agriculture is transforming their landscape while reducing costs and increasing production.

Thanks to these local heroes, more and more farmers in the Altiplano are joining AlVelAl. As the collective efforts of this farmer network grows, the ambition of restoring the Altiplano becomes ever more attainable.

This story map is made by Commonland to promote the work of AlVelAl and the dedicated farmers of the Altiplano.

Curious for more? Learn more about AlVelAl

The map icons were made by Freepik, title: Flaticon