Spain buys out farmers near Doñana to save areas for birds

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farmers doñana

PROVINCIA DE HUELVA – Spain has bought out farmers around the Doñana National Park to meet the challenges of climate change and drought. The water scarcity resulting from drought is exacerbated by intensive agriculture around the nature reserve.

Located to the southwest of Seville, Doñana is a hub of biodiversity and migratory bird routes. However, the delicate balance of this ecosystem is threatened by strawberry cultivation, much of which goes to Europe.

Over the years, farmers in the area have illegally dug 850 wells to combat the drought. This has led to a reduction in water supplies. Causing important lagoons such as Santa Olalla to dry up. This phenomenon has only happened a few times in recent decades.

Financial support for farmers Doñana

Spain’s environment minister, Teresa Ribera, has pledged €350 million for ‘social restructuring’ in the area. The aim is to save both the economy and nature. This could mean that some farmers sell their land or move their activities to other areas. This decision marks an important shift in policy: authorities now put sustainability over short-term economic gain. However, how and when these measures will be activated has not yet been announced.

Andalusia buys 7,500 hectares of land for birds

The Junta de Andalucía (PP) announced in September the purchase of 7,500 hectares of land in Doñana. In this way, the Andalusian government wants to preserve the thousands of birds that visit the marshes every year. The Junta plans to propose the extension of the Doñana National Park to these lands, which will become state property.

Illegal wells

However, this acquisition does not solve the problem of illegal wells used for the cultivation of strawberries. These have depleted the Doñana aquifer. The purchase of the Veta la Palma estate, with its flooded ponds, is seen as a positive step towards restoring the area’s biodiversity.

The government has welcomed the purchase but acknowledges that it does not address Doñana’s water shortage. The minister for Ecological Transition demands the Junta to withdraw a proposed expansion of irrigated land near Doñana. He also asks the Junta to give insight into how they have used funds for the park.  

The future of Doñana

WWF’s Juanjo Carmona sees Doñana as a “laboratory” for climate change. In the nature reserve, the consequences of doing nothing become apparent. However, the park also offers hope for what authorities and citizens can save with timely intervention. Carmona emphasizes the need to diversify the economy and proposes to further develop tourism.

The recent weather conditions for this region are exceptional. High temperatures reach well above the average values for the season. Furthermore, some heavy rains have been so severe the water was not sufficiently absorbed by the dry soil.  

Also read: Doñana from World Heritage to “stinky pond”

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