GOB – Custodia Agraria 2021

4.920 € awarded

Organisation Requesting Funding

GOB (Grupo Balear de Ornitología y Defensa de la Naturaleza) is a non-profit environmental association, running since 1973. In 1977 a sector was created with a specific focus on Menorca, and it currently has 1,400 members. GOB has led in both social and environmental conservation on the island for many years.

Its main objective is to help achieve a sustainable economy, which requires human activities and environmental values to coincide. One of its lines of action is the Custodia Agraria programme, initiated in response to the need to achieve an agricultural model which makes economic activity compatible with the preservation of the island’s environment and biodiversity. Within the last few decades, this has become a pressing necessity due to the growth in agricultural activity, abandonment of the countryside and speculation.

 

Area of Interest

Conservation of landscape and support for local produce.

 

Summary of the Project

The Menorcan agricultural sector is facing a complicated situation as market conditions have changed faster than its production model (currently very much oriented towards livestock farming for the production of milk and industrial cheese) meaning that the industry’s financial sustainability is uncertain.

Additionally, the island is facing environmental problems caused by the increasing intensification of many farms which, in the quest for economic survival, are depleting soil fertility, using large quantities of pesticides, irrigating large fields with aquifer water to produce animal fodder and spread chemical fertiliser on the land, some of which leaches into the aquifer itself in the form of nitrates.

The Custodia Agraria programme aims to accompany landowners and agricultural managers in their search for economic viability by generating differentiated products that are highly compatible with the natural values of the environment. This approach makes it possible to add value that facilitates short-cycle marketing, better prices for producers and consumers, and at the same time improves the environmental conditions of surrounding areas.

This project is the result of a survey carried out on the network of farms with a Custodia Agraria agreement, in order to identify expectations and difficulties from the farm’s perspective, as well as a questionnaire to identify specific measures to be applied. From this, actions to be funded and carried out have been defined.

 

General Objectives

To improve economic viability and environmental compatibility of Custodia Agraria farms.

 

Specific Objectives

  • To encourage diversification of available produce on each farm.
  • To experiment with soil regenerative practices.
  • To facilitate livestock management strategies.
  • To apply environmental methods for pest control.

 

Description of Planned Activities

 

a) Diversification of productive trees

Productive trees make it possible to combine a range of produce on the same land and at the same time provide a type of product that is in short supply on the local market in Menorca, including all types of fruit.

GOB collects the demands of the farms and coordinates the purchase. The farms carry out the sowing and maintenance.

 

b) Diversification of honey production

Beehives are installed in a number of farms, in a proportional manner to avoid affecting natural pollinators. This allows farmers to generate a product of high nutritional value from areas that are generally not very productive.

 

c) Regenerative practices with mobile hen houses

A model of mobile hen house has been designed for laying hens, manufactured in Menorca, with the aim of making it easy to plan the rotational grazing, the animal welfare and recovery of fertile soil. Hygiene criteria are incorporated, aesthetics, resistance and ease of handling. The poultry house is combined with a system of mobile fencing system.

The model must first be field tested to detect needs for improvement. The farm will manage the animals and facilitate organised visits for people interested in replicating the experience on the island.

 

d) Regenerative practices with livestock

The practice of holistic livestock management aims to replicate the behaviour of natural herbivores and their relationship with the recovery of soil fertility, dynamization of pasture and the capture of CO2. This requires the ability to carry out land delimitations that are smaller than the island’s common fields.

With the aim of extending its application in Menorca, GOB facilitates the acquisition of mechanical and electrical systems to the farms that have shown interest.

 

e) Facilitating the planned management of livestock

Some areas of the livestock farms present difficulties for the keeping of livestock, especially in summer, due to lack of sufficient feed or water points. This can be solved with mobile feeding and watering systems, which allow the animals to do their work on the fields, while at the same time easily supplying the required feed or water supplementation as required in each case.

GOB monitors the needs of the farms, centralises the purchase to reduce transport costs and the livestock farmers are in charge of handling.

 

f) Applying environmental methods for pest control

The intense presence of rodents is a fairly common problem on many farms. Unfortunately, many of them end up with toxic chemicals, such as poisons, which can subsequently affect other species. Every year, the Biodiversity Board promotes a rotation of traps for selective rodent trapping. But they now want to test a system that could be more effective and interesting, such as nesting boxes for owls.

This nocturnal bird of prey is a great natural rodent controller. Since many farms have facilities suitable for nest boxes, a few units have been built in Menorca, following models successfully tested elsewhere, and will be distributed to interested farms. At the same time, efforts will be coordinated with the Centro de Recuperación de Fauna Silvestre (Wildlife Recovery Centre), so that the owl chicks found, are released on farms with nest boxes.

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