After four months in Madrid mountains and three months in Aracena mountains, we will now have a break in our fieldwork. In the past months we have had the opportunity to interview ca. 50 people of all ages, both locals and newcomers, farmers, public employees, local guards, teachers, researchers, trade union representatives, rural development agents, etc. Through theses interviews we have become closer to the great diversity of motivations behind the back-to-the-countryside migration, the challenges faced by these areas and the enormous richness of initiatives that aim at improving the social-ecological sustainability of these areas: farming cooperatives, consumer associations, popular universities, local markets, informal networks of mutual support, a network of municipalities committed to rural agroecological development, complementary currencies, social media groups to share cars o alternative education projects are some examples.
In the Sierra Norte de Madrid, together with Master student Karin Ruede and Professor Claudia Bieling, from the University of Hohenheim, and Professor Marta Rivera Ferre, from Vic University, we have explored, through a survey with (almost) all livestock farmers in several towns (Bustarviejo, Madarcos, Montejo de la Sierra, Puebla de la Sierra, Robregordo, Serrada y Valdemanco), the networks of exchange of farming knowledge and mutual support. The 49 interviewees have described their farm and explained from whom did they learn what they know and with whom do they exchange ideas and advices nowadays about: livestock management, the bringing to forth of livestock, animal health, wool shearing, input management (e.g. fodder), bureaucratic management and product commercialisation. Some preliminary results of this part of the project have been presented in June at the VI International Agroecology Conference in Vigo and the II European Conference of Social Networks in Paris.
In the Sierra de Aracena, together with Master student Jose Sancho and researchers Isabel Díaz Reviriego and Victoria Reyes from the Autonomous University of Barcelona and the Institute for Environmental Science and Technology, a similar work has been developed interviewing vegetable garden keepers of Galaroza and Las Chinas villages. Garden keepers have shown us their gardens and shared their memories about those from which they learnt to cultivate. We have asked them also with whom do they chat today about seedlings, the work in the garden, the sowing, the irrigation, the fertilisation and plague control, the cropping and transformation of products, and the trees´ care.
Finally, together with Master student Álvaro Fuentes and researchers Violeta Hevia and Francisco M. Azcarate, from Autonomous University of Madrid, we have carried out the sampling for the study of ant diversity in vegetable gardens of the Sierra de Aracena. Thanks to the kind collaboration of 24 garden keepers that open their doors to us (as can be seen in this video), we could set and collect 240 pitfall traps that are currently been processed in the laboratory. The gardens were distributed within Las Chinas, Galaroza and Fuenteheridos as representatives of a cooler valley, and Linares de la Sierra, Alájar and El Collado as warmest contexts within the central core of Aracena mountains.