Within the study area, the predominant vegetation consists of holm-oak wood and olive grove, Portuguese oak (Quercus faginea), wild olive trees (Olea europaea var. sylvestris), carob trees (Ceratonia siliqua), gorse and mastic (Pistacia lentiscus).
The O-Live Environmental Association develops a project for sustainable rural development in the Sierra de Grazalema. Our goal is to combine organic farming of olive groves with the conservation and restoration of natural heritage, based on criteria coming from applied research. To do so, we manage an Ecological reserve "Finca El Herrador". This figure of protection provides us with a legal framework under which to start our conservation activities, and serves as a starting point to improve the situation of protected species, to maintain environmental and landscape quality, while promoting rural development and ecological tourism.
We are located in Prado del Rey, in the province of Cádiz, located in the Natural Park of the Sierra de Grazalema. The farm of interest comprises 25.4 Ha, of which 6.3 Ha correspond to olive groves and 19.1 Ha to field or wooded land.
Both the olive grove area and the wooded area have undergone a process of degradation in recent years due to strong pressure from human activities. One of the main problems is the high attrition suffered by the substrate and vegetation cover in the area of olive groves, due to continued use of chemicals, systematic tillage and subsequent abandonment. Finally, during the last decade, the study area has undergone a gradual process of abandonment. Besides the environmental problems, cultural problems have arisen due to the loss of traditional uses and activities of the former estate.
The oaks are the most affected vegetation, having been replaced mostly by olive trees, cereals or transformed into pasture for cattle. This transformation, coupled with the continued use of plant protection products and overgrazing, illegal hunting or overexploitation of aquifers, has caused a decrease in the diversity and richness of flora and fauna species as well as an impoverishment of the soil physicochemical characteristics.
Our association seeks to create a replicable model, which can solve the problems of environmental degradation, such as the intensification of farming methods and the depopulation and abandonment of traditional activities, by attracting people back to rural areas to manage small equally profitable and environmentally friendly agro-ecological farms.
To do so, we will work in 3 intimately linked areas:
Creation of a land management plan, under the protection status of an Ecological Reserve which allow us to restore and conserve the habitat of high ecological value.
Restoration and creation of an ecological model for olive groves management in harmony with the Ecological Reserve.
Creation of a space for disclosure, education and applied research.
We believe that giving prominence to agro-ecological products and local resources (traditional farmers' knowledge, agricultural and livestock varieties, or the agricultural landscape), complementation with other economic activities (environmental education, agro-tourism) and the development of short marketing circuits are the best alternatives to the loss of competitiveness that rural areas are suffering lately.
The term “Ecological reserve” refers to an area with important wildlife or special geological features. It is intended to be protected and managed in accordance with principles of conservation where research and education play an important role. In our case, it is an Ecological Reserve declared by the Ministry of Environment and Territory Planning of the Junta de Andalucía.
The main objectives of this Ecological reserve are:
Conservation and improvement of habitats
Maintenance of biological diversity
Improvement of ecological connectivity
Promote the sustainable use of the olive grove
Generate added values in agricultural production
Sustainable management of extensive livestock
Promote applied research
Communicate and promote our efforts in favor of the sustainability and conservation of biodiversity in general
*All the images of nests or captured bird were taken during authorised scientific experiments