SIERRA DE GATA
“We were born from the fire and from the ashes we are creating Life”
Sierra de Gata was the origin of Reforest-Acción. An international Volunteer Project that started as a dream and that is becoming true thanks to a great Network of wonderful people and a strong will to do something.
“The Root of this Movement is based on the Wish to Look after Nature. Listening and observing it and in that way humbly serving it.”
The initiative arises as a response to the catastrophic fire that burn 8600 hectares in August 2015, in the municipalities of Acebo, Hoyos, Perales del Puerto, and Gata, in Sierra de Gata, northern Caceres, Extremadura, Spain.
A BIT OF HISTORY
Sierra de Gata, as well as other territories, has been transformed by the hand of people, and a lot has changed since one could say that a squirrel could cross the whole Iberian Peninsula north to south without touching the ground. Little is left from the old Iberian forests.
Land of shepherds, olive groves and grape vines. Rich in water and fertile land. Showing mild winters and abundant rains. The Sierra was chosen during the dictatorship of Franco as a place to establish one of the many massive plantations of resine pine (Pinus pinaster) planted in the Peninsula at that time.
As pines were growing, shepherds were forced to abandon their animals, mostly goats, which were at that time very numerous. And although pine plantations offered economic alternatives to the population for some time, industrial development in areas like the Basque Country and Catalonia resulted in many people migrating in search of a better life.
This resulted in the abandonment of the land and farming activities. After this, pines expanded uncontrolled.
AND AS PINES CAME, FIRE CAME…
Resin pine has a highly flammable resin making fires uncontrollable. The abandonment of plantations and the increase in temperatures in the last decades has resulted in fire being used as a tool for the benefit of a few and in some cases in “accidental” burns.
The situation can be summarized as this, pines grow up, burn, sprout, grow again, and burn again. And in the meantime land dies.
Very few people in the Sierra believed at the time in the possibility of reforesting the Sierra based on volunteer work. After a year of searching for allies little support was found yet that did not stop the impulse.
“Having not enough people in the Sierra committed to look after the forests, we would have to get them from elsewhere”
A call was made to the four winds and people started coming, the first lot came in early October 2016, then hundreds came afterwards. To date, there has been more than 1000 people coming through, each of them offering their bit towards the restoration of native forests in Sierra de Gata.
The basis of our actions has always been to act in an efficient and simple manner. They stem from the impulse and the will from our heart. Giving the best of ourselves. Field work is sometimes hard, coexistence is not easy at times, but these experiences are transforming us and allowing a change in awareness. Life means living and we do it intensely.
Our vision is to recuperate a diverse landscape with is resistant to fire. And also to bring back the forest as structure for life, recuperating the soil, the freshness in the air, the purity of air, and the life of creatures both under and above the earth and further. To recuperate the value of living in the villages. Making society see that forests are life; Life for all and that it is more necessary than ever to look after and protect them.
After three years of intense work we have consolidated the project and some trees can be seen poking over the bushes. It is a challenge to continue each year with passion, clarity and determination, despite the obstacles in the way.
We estimate that there are between 180.000 and 200.000 new trees growing in Sierra de Gata thanks to the efforts of the reforest-Acción Family.
This is the result of two and a half years of intense seasonal work. During this time we have planted 51.000 saplings, sowed around 650.000 corktrees, holmoaks and oaks plus around 200.000 seeds of hackberry, hawthorn and juniper and spread about 45 million strawberry tree seeds.
We have estimated a survival rate of about 70 % for the trees planted, and some of the are already one meter high.
The results are variable for acorns, depending on soil conditions, annual rains and predation by rodents and wild boars. After long observations we can estimate that about 10% have germinated and survived the first year and thus have high probabilities of establishment.
Other seeds like those of hackberry, hawthorn and juniper show differences between species, in our nursery we had between 30 and 40 per cent germination rate after mechanically extracting the seeds.
In regards to strawberry trees, we have ten people counting how many have sprouted form the 45 million spread, time will tell!, but seriously, some do emerge and survive the first year. The germination rate is low but since they are small and we get so many out of the fruits it is easy enough to sow them by the millions. In fact it only takes two days’ work to collect the fruits, extract the seeds, and sow 25 million of their seeds. From these only a few thousands will become trees, but imagine having to plant them…..Efficiency above all!
Commitment of people is fundamental, it is no good planting a forest if it is not going to be valued and looked after in the future. That is why the basis of conservation must rest on raising awareness amongst people in society.
That is why we created the program “Sowing Awareness”, which involves local school children allowing them to be part of the restoration of their landscape. Around 450 children from 12 different schools have participated in awareness raising and planting campaigns.
Another important issue is to inspire people who come to collaborate as volunteers. We want to focus more and more on improving the quality of experience that Reforest-accion facilitates every year for hundreds of people. It is fundamental to transmit a spirit of commitment based on action.
We share our vision on the role we can play living in balance with the environment. Learning a new alphabet with which to learn to observe the codes of the landscape and the creatures that live in it. A way of life in which the real economy becomes evident with the seeds, the Water, the Earth, the Sun and the fresh Air. Having the opportunity to share all this while sowing life on each step makes this a rare project.
The support of the Council of Villasbuenas de Gata has been a basic pillar of the Project, since they kindly offer the Municipal Hostel to host the volunteers.
We cannot forget the support from the beginning of Fernando Pulido from the Mosaic project.
We also wish to thank the Forestry Service of the Government of Extremadura, and specially our good relationship with the team from the governmental Nurseries.
And the support of Associations such as RAMA, ARBA, Amigos del Tejo, ARBA Extremadura, ARBA Huelva…
Viveros Alborada and Viveros El Tomillo.
Ignacio Abella, thank you for your support, thanks also to the support of his wife and for that inspiring attitude which is a reference for us and many other nature lovers.
“Not many words are needed, our actions speak for themselves”
(Girasol, Germany 2016)
31 days restlessly planting. A way to express the need for change, really.
120 hectares freed from invasive species and 100 hectares reforested with 12.300 planted trees and 25.000 chestnuts sown.
“VIDEO LA HUERTA DE RENATO”
100 days of work, 170 hectares reforested with 16.500 trees planted and between 450.000 and 500.000 acorns sown.
120 days of work, maintenance of 100 previously reforested hectares. 120 new hectares reforested, 21.300 trees planted and around 150.000 acorns sowed. Millions of seeds of strawberry tree, hawthorn, hackberry and juniper sown.
OUR NEXT CAMPAIGN….