Over the years, Fundación Global Nature (FGN) has developed an initiative to support farmers who grow their products in Natura 2000 sites in Spain in the Castile-La Mancha and Castile-Leon regions where the farming sector plays a key role. These Natura 2000 sites in the central plateaus of the Iberian Peninsula include important biodiverse wetlands.
With financial support from the EU LIFE fund, the FGN started an initiative to support nature-friendly legume, crop and almond production. The organisation first provided farmers with seeds. The products were then purchased and packed by the FGN, making clear reference to their origin and the environmental benefits of the production method. The products were promoted at national and international fairs to help farmers sell them. To support differentiated marketing, distribution agreements have been established with other entities.
The production is currently completely organic, and farmers follow environmental guidelines that have been agreed upon and are clearly linked to biodiversity protection. They include measures such as: creating hedges and boundaries for crops to provide shelter and food for fauna species; replacing the use of chemical fertilisers by natural products; promoting crop rotation with varieties of legumes and fallow land to create a mosaic of cultures.
Farmers’ interest in this win-win approach to Natura 2000 conservation and farming has been growing over the years. The annual average number of farmers involved in different project activities in the past 4 years has been 400. They represent about 20 000 ha of land. Within 5 years, 243 legume producers became involved, the project produced 115 000 kilos of legumes and total revenue was EUR 225 100. Networking and cooperation among almond farmers was supported through the creation of a cooperative in Villacaña.
The promotion of sustainable economic activities is one of the objectives of the Natura 2000 network. Almost 40 % of the Natura 2000 area is farmland, demonstrating the importance of supporting sustainable farming in the network. This project is an excellent demonstration of how producers can consider Natura 2000 as a source of support for differentiating their products in the market.