On a few trips to the Canary Islands (Tenerife, Gran Canaria) I noticed that in the local Canary markets (Mercado de Nuestra Senora de Africa, Santa Cruz, Tenerife and Vega de San Mateo in Gran Canaria), there are hardly any African vegetables and fruit. This made me think: if these are not yet sold, one could theoretically get a good price for them.Besides the lack of supply on the local markets, the local cultivation of African fruit / vegetables is also completely absent from the Canary Islands. Then, reviewing the Lost Crops of Africa books (Volume 1, 2 and 3) I noticed that these fruits / vegetables are only little or not improved by plant breeding, so they are still capable of much better yield. I also noticed that they have sometimes even been oppressed in their own country (which makes that an extra cultivation area is interesting to still maintain the species).
In addition to fruit and vegetables, African (and indigenous Canary) ornamental plants are also useful, to promote biodiversity and to combat desertification (in certain places on the islands, e.g. in the south of Gran Canaria, Tenerife and most of Fuerteventura, the vegetation is very limited). Plant lists (ornamental plants) can be found on the websites of some of the botanical gardens described, but no distinction is made between exotic and native plants. That is why I am reading other literature such as Jardines de Canarias 1 and 2 (by David and Zoë Bramwell) and some German books by the same authors. The advantage of these African vegetables / fruits seems to be that they can (often) cope with periods of temporary drought, and can withstand very high temperatures (sometimes up to 45 ° C or more). Some are also salt tolerant (which is also a problem on many islands and certainly Fuerteventura. Some of the plants described also have thorns and can be pruned like hedges, which is useful to prevent grazing of stray goats (this is a serious problem on Fuerteventura).
In connection with breeding: Although improved African fruit and vegetables are hard to find, breeding is done to some extent (it is less problematic today than what the Lost Crops of Africa books indicate). The African Orphan Crops Consortium has a large number of institutes working on this. See also here. Maybe seeds can be obtained through the AOC consortium, and some plants may be available through the local botanical gardens, namely:
* Jardin de Aclimatacion de la Orotava
* Jardin Botanico Canario Viera y Clavijo
* Palmitos Park Gran Canaria
* Oasis Park Fuerteventura
Fuerteventura used to be (a hundred to two hundred years ago) well known for its grain production, and the area used to be richer / less arid. So recovery to this situation is certainly possible in theory, and maybe much more. Many farms (fincas), eg in the area La Oliva-Puerto del Rosario-Caleta de Fuste-Tiscomanita, as well as El Cotillo-Lajares, and the area Pajara still bear witness to this time. Fairly large plots still seem to be for sale (at low prices, eg 1.03 euros per m2), see for example here. So, as with the La Junquera project, there would still be opportunities here.
In the Canary Islands, nature conservation is a very important theme for the local government. For example, they have the service “Red Canario de Espacios Naturales Protegidos“. These operate not only on Fuerteventura but on all the Canary Islands (including Gran Canaria, Tenerife, …). In some cases (certain areas) it seems to me that limited commercial plantations (polyculture, agroforestry) in protected zones can actually increase (instead of reduce) the local biodiversity, as well as allow more carbon to be sequestered, costs for the conservation of the protected area can (as there is then income from CO2 storage, sale of fruit / vegetables, increase of tourists and their expenses, and a revival of artisan crafts can be achieved). I am thinking in particular of protected, yet dry and little biodiverse areas. These are available on all Canary Islands (as they all have several biotopes on the same island). Gran Canaria and Tenerife, for example, have a dry south, a more humid north and (humid) mountains in the center of the island. A concrete example could be the sisal plantation in the protected area of isla de Los Lobos (part of Fuerteventura). These are now unused there. In theory they could be used again to make textiles and sell them, for example, via the cleanoceanproject.org shop in Fuerteventura (it seems to me that they would participate in such a project, see their website). I am also thinking, for example, of growing Opuntia + cochineal louse (= natural coloring agent). I read that these bv can still be found near Calderon Hondo. The cultivation of Aloe vera is also possible (e.g. for local producers such as Tabaibaloe) / Cultivation of canary pine (mountain range) also seems to have been forgotten a bit but may still be useful for restoring the traditional wooden balconies of old houses, found everywhere on the Canary Islands as well as useful for temporary CO2 storage. Many other possibilities are possible in these protected areas, and I have not yet mentioned the aforementioned African crops.
The launch of such projects would depend on the wishes of the Red Canario de Espacios Naturales Protegidos service. I also saw (in both Tenerife and Gran Canaria) that on many slopes near highways there is little or no vegetation, and if there is one, it belongs to only 1 species (a kind of shrub, I don’t know the exact name). Many landscaped terraces (terrace culture) are also unused near the motorways (eg between Santa Maria de Guia – Banaderos, Telde, …). I imagine that the government (also because of tourism) would rather see these slopes planted with more vegetation (multiple species), and thus allow planting thereof (and perhaps allow its own preservation of the proceeds for the workers / volunteers who do this ?). The Canarian government has already completed many botanical gardens (described above) that could provide seeds for such projects.
- Find here an overview of existing eco-farms in the Canary, some of them already use some African fruit / vegetables, e.g. Autarca, Matricultura, some farms such as the BaToRo Project – Back To the Roots are not marked on the map.
- Text files with the species are available here.
- I’ll also see whether I can share the files through the openoffice webplatform.