AgroS.O.S.tainable Phase II, Spain 

In recent years, the abandonment of the countryside and the use of intensive crop systems has lead to the progressive loss of habitat necessary for the long-term sustainability of populations of many endangered bird species in the project area near Madrid. Many species of Steppe birds including Great Bustard, various owls and harriers, stone curlews and also sand grouse are being lost due to farming practices.

Through this project, Brinzal will work with farmers in an area of 1000 hectares to encourage activities to provide beneficial habitats for these birds, such as extensive farming techniques, organic farming, providing nesting sites and perching sites for birds including raptors and tree planting. It will also work with local municipalities and media to promote walking and bird watching in the area to demonstrate the value of these farming practices.The project will:
-Establish stewardship arrangements with 10% of farmers in the project area and collaboration agreements with 50% of town councils.
– Carry out awareness raising activities for farmers, local people and visitors in all project areas through 8 awareness days, 8 free bird watching tours plus media work
– Make improvements to habitats on farms, with wildlife encouraged on at least 1,000 hectares of land. Two trails marked out and promoted for trekking and bird watching.

The Update

Brinzal has worked hard to contact 597 farmers and land owners in local municipalities.  The organisation was surprised at the high level of knowledge of organic farming already existing amongst the farmers, and all were offered advice about more sustainable methods of production.   Over 932 hectares of land, covering 14 municipalities have benefitted from this work.  Over 30% of the farmers contacted have adopted the proposed measures.

Developing a good relationship with a cooperative in Peraleña, only 2 of their 141 members have not moved away from using chemicals in farming.  The hope is that in the near future, the whole cooperative will produce organic oil.

Much work has gone into talking to the local communities, land owners and local authorities on the benefits of a healthy ecosystem to the land itself, local life and the benefits of tourism to rural areas.

Actions that have been adopted by farmers during the project have included:
– maintaining or establishing borders and islands of wild vegetation in and around fields
– installing of 65 nest boxes for birds of prey
– installing 260 wooden hunting perches for birds
– install several refuge boxes for bats in areas where the habitats were suitable
– restoration of six stone cairns as refuges for animals

5 routes and a total of 40 kilometres have been signed and promoted as dedicated bird watching routes.

Image: Eurasian Stone Curlew. Image credit: Javier Alonso