Farmers are needed to support biodiversity and bird protection

Fundación Global Nature has held the first meeting of farmers for biodiversity in El Hito Lagoon. The objective is to create alliances for the conservation of cranes and steppe birds through agrosustainable practices that find in the environment an opportunity to be more effective, more efficient and for the commercialization of sustainable products in the market.

“For the farmers of the region is a pride to live in an area of special protection for birds,” says the president of the Association of Affected by the Cranes, Pepe Honduvilla, who participated in the meeting held today at the town hall of Montalbo, but “what we ask for is help to compensate the losses generated by these birds that eat the seeds of our crops when the planting comes.

Overseeding aid

While waiting for the new CAP framework (2023-2027) to approve a specific line of aid for steppe birds, El Hito LIFE project is committed to a temporary compensation plan to alleviate the damage caused by cranes in the SPA-SAC area. The plan contemplates stewardship agreements with the farmers of the crops surrounding the wetland in exchange for a progressive improvement in agricultural practices that promote biodiversity. The project already has 17 collaboration agreements on more than 200 hectares of land in El Hito and Montalbo.

Protecting steppe birds in agricultural landscapes

Steppe birds are the most endangered group of birds in Europe, with Spain being home to the largest population of this type of species in the center and south of the Peninsula. “That is why it is so important to work with farmers in the conservation of steppe birds,” says  José Luís González, ecology expert for Fundación Global Nature.

The citizen does not perceive how these natural spaces have changed during the last decades. “It seems as if time has not passed through them. However, this is not the case,” says José Luis González. “Agriculture has undergone very profound changes in the last 40 years, degrading landscapes at an accelerated rate and causing the decline of many invertebrate populations that are the livelihood of steppe birds and other species in the lagoon,” he adds.

Thanks to the support of the Provincial Government of Cuenca and funding from the European Union and Aramco Europe, the El Hito LIFE project is working with farmers in the area to show that another type of agriculture is possible and profitable in the agricultural fields around the wetland.

Commercialization of pro-biodiversity products

The first meeting of farmers in Montalbo has been directed to know the support of El Hito LIFE project to the cereal crop overseeding, as well as the potential of differentiated marketing of organic products to promote agriculture compatible with the conservation of biodiversity.

Through agricultural stewardship strategies, the aim is to support the production of organic legume crops, as well as the recovery of almorta varieties, which represent a differentiating factor in the market. Among its many environmental benefits is to serve as a source of food for steppe birds. Patricia Olivares, head of agricultural stewardship of Fundación Global Nature in the area, claims that ‘our presence here these years aims to support farmers who are encouraged to make these changes, because we have already demonstrated in other areas that these practices are profitable for the farmer and beneficial for biodiversity. It’s a win-win situation.

Fundación Global Nature has extensive experience in the commercialization of legumes grown using traditional methods in Natura 2000 Network areas. The additional income obtained from this type of production increases the price the farmer receives for his work.