Regenerating a global biodiversity hotspot
An aboriginal-led movement across the Noongar nation in Southwest Australia brings a diverse range of partners together to find a new harmony with the landscape.
Creating a more regenerative future in the AlVelAl territory, Spain
The AlVelAl territory spans five districts at the intersection of Almería, Murcia and Granada, three provinces belonging to Spain’s southernmost region, Andalucía. It is a semi-arid steppe (a large area of flat unforested grassland) and transition zone between desert and Mediterranean forest.
In this landscape, water has always been scarce. Despite these conditions, the area has been home to human settlements for centuries. The economy today is mainly based on agriculture. However, desertification and extreme climate conditions, combined with unsustainable land management practices that have reduced local biodiversity and climate resilience, make the AlVelAl Territory a challenging landscape for local communities.
Since 2014, Commonland’s landscape partner AlVelAl has been using the 4 Returns Framework to bring together local farmers, conservationists, government, and entrepreneurs to create a common vision for the territory. Currently, AlVelAl Association has more than 490 members, including 280 farmers, and has developed three regenerative businesses now in operation: an almond-focused company, an olive oil cooperative, and a food platform to sell regenerative products from across the territory.
AlVelAl and Foundation Aland developed an alliance in 2020. They collaborate to present the AlVelAl Territory as a lighthouse example of holistic landscape restoration based on the 4 Returns Framework in drylands areas. By inspiring other initiatives in Spain and Portugal, the aim is to create a 4 Returns Network across the Iberian Peninsular.
“If we want to keep farming into the future, it needs to be done regeneratively. Every year we grow more and better: what we’re doing is the future of agriculture.”Maikel Lara, local farmer within the AlVelAl territory
By 2034, the AlVelAl Territory is a regenerative landscape where nature and agriculture are in balance. An ecological corridor connects the region’s mountain ranges. Farms with both natural and productive lands form a mosaic of biodiversity hotspots, which act as stepping zones between natural areas. Rural abandonment is reversed as young people return and find new opportunities. The area continues to regenerate, led by a group of diverse, inspired local stakeholders.
“At the moment people move from away the region to find work. I’m inspired by being part of a project that transforms a territory so that the younger generation, so that my daughters can choose to live here.”Elvira Marín Irigaray, Director of Fundación Aland
actively implementing regenerative practices
of the AlVelAl network
under improved land management
created and operational
Regenerating a landscape’s ecological foundation by restoring and protecting native vegetation, trees, and biodiversity.
Restoring natural zones such as La Muela; facilitating restoration of natural zones on farms to implement measures to retain water, soil and to promote biodiversity, including the development of biodiversity corridors; engagement and mobilisation of farmers, community members and other stakeholders; research & development, monitoring, evaluation, and learning.
Restoring the topsoil and biodiversity, and delivering sustainable economic returns through regenerative agriculture, agroforestry and rotational grazing.
Facilitating restoration of natural zones on farms to implement measures to retain water, soil and to promote biodiversity; facilitating transition to regenerative agriculture (through workshops, pilots) to retain water and soil and to promote biodiversity; engagement and mobilisation of farmers, community members and other stakeholders; research & development; monitoring, evaluation and learning.
To deliver sustainable economic productivity with dedicated areas for value-adding activities like processing. This zone is typically concentrated in urban areas.
Processing and marketing of regenerative products from the territory, while supporting an ecosystem of regenerative businesses and entrepreneurs; engagement and mobilisation of farmers, community members and other stakeholders; research & development; monitoring, evaluation and learning.
Mediterranean forests consists of trees like oaks and evergreen shrubs such as thyme and rosemary. These forests once covered vast areas of the AlVelAl Territory (Image credit: Tom Lovett).
Restoration requires planting new trees to grow in some areas: a difficult task in a semi-arid landscape (Image credit: AlVelAl).
Antonio Maurandi works to expand the natural zone on his farm Cortijo Nuevo (Image credit: Gabriela Hengeveld).
More than 100,000 ha of rain-fed almonds grow in the AlVelAl Territory, creating huge potential for business-driven restoration.
Cristóbal and David, father and son, run a family-owned extra virgin olive oil brand in the territory (Image credit: Gabriela Hengeveld)
Developing almonds groves managed with regenerative agriculture principles allows farms to support biodiversity, infiltrate water and harvest healthier products (Image credit: Gabriela Hengeveld).
Arantza Ilarduya collecting almonds for research at Cortijo El Ciruelo (Image credit: Gabriela Hengeveld).
Ponds are a critical haven for biodiversity in the semi-arid landscape (Image credit: Gabriela Hengeveld).
Swales prevent soil erosion and allow water to infiltrate into the landscape (Image credit: Gabriela Hengeveld).
Farming regenerative almonds for Almendrehesa provides farmers with a premium price(Image credit: Gabriela Hengeveld).
A new range of regenerative products is available on the online platform AlVelAl Foods (Image credit: AlVelAl).