Large-scale landscape restoration means dreaming ahead. You need to envision what a future could look like. You need to think up ideas today that may seem impossible. But when you lay them out and work together as a collective, visions become reality. That is exactly what happened during a 2-day workshop in 2014 in the Altiplano. A diverse group of representatives in the landscape got together and co-envisioned the Altiplano in 2034.
The image below, shows you this vision as laid out in the Theory U: a tool used for people to come together to co-sense, co-initiate and co-create. Find out more about Theory U.
Let’s start with the elephant
You may notice on the right-hand corner an elephant. An elephant, in Spain? Well, the drawing less to do with the animal and rather to represent all voices in the room.
There’s a parable from India about a group of blind men who each learn what an elephant is by touching it. One touches the trunk and thinks it must be a snake. Another touches the belly and describes the elephant as a wall. Each man understands the elephant differently, and they begin to argue and distrust one another. All of their perspectives are “true”, but not being able to see the bigger picture causes conflict.
The tale may seem a long way from landscape restoration, but the moral of the story is vital. To embark on an ambitious large-scale landscape restoration program, all of the different voices and backgrounds – from businesses, farmers, local authorities – are needed in a collective.
In November 2014, this diverse group of representatives – from farmers, conversationists to government ministers – came together and dreamed about creating a landscape restoration initiative in the Altiplano. And as you see in the image below, the initiative set out to act as a lighthouse for other Mediterranean landscapes.
A 20-year vision
In the Altiplano of the future, ecology and economy go hand-in-hand: people make a decent living and natural values are taken care of – biodiversity is promoted, soil and water is retained. The development of economic opportunities based on sustainable land-use halts rural abandonment and provides a decent living for young people and future generations. Working the land is an honourable profession. The natural parks are reforested and connected. Sustainable farmlands form a mosaic landscape and act as stepping stone on the high plateau. The Altiplano becomes a regenerative landscape where agroecology and sustainable farming are a way of life.
The beginning of a movement
It takes at least 20 years – or one generation to restore a landscape. And this all begins with inspiration. A couple of months after that meeting in November 2014, AlVelAl was founded.
Since April 2015, AlVelAl has been building awareness to grow a movement of restoring the Altiplano. AlVelAl members developed La Almendrehesa as an integrated farming concept and a 4 returns company bearing the same name was launched in 2016 to market regenerative produce. In 2017, the AlVelAl territory was registered . To begin reforesting the area more than 50,000 trees were planted in La Muela in 2018. And in 2019 the AlVelAl 8000 project began; taking inspiration from 8000-year-old cave art an enormous landscape sculpture – which changes colour with the seasons – has been created with aromatic plants.
The restoration activities continue to go from strength to strength in the Altiplano. Today, AlVelAl has 300 members, of which over 80 farmers are rolling out regenerative practices in their farms. A long-term vision was laid out in 2014, and 6-years later landscape and community are already in transformation.