MADRID – Clara Benito wins a prize from the European Commission with her project Entrelobas. The project promotes environmental restoration, fire prevention and is also innovative: its 130 goats are herded without physical fencing using GPS.
The Madrid native never thought she would become a goat herder in a mountain area above Madrid. She had always lived in the city, but love took her elsewhere. In 2015 she met her partner David. They bought five goats together and started extensive grazing to help restore the mountain area in Madrid’s Sierra Norte. Today, Clara runs the Entrelobas project on her own. She now has a herd of 130 goats and four dogs that protect her herd from wolves.
Virtual fence system
The Entrelobas project is innovative because Clara uses a digital virtual fencing system that eliminates the need for physical fences. Moreover, this system saves her a lot of time. Herding is a time-consuming and lonely profession, with this system she can work remotely and have more time for her daughters and other things. Clara shows the newspaper El Diario on her mobile phone a card with all the dots on it, these are her goats. She can mark out an area via the app; a virtual fence. When a goat approaches the virtual fence, the collar emits a beep and the goat moves again. The collar is powered by solar energy and therefore always works. Moreover, she also knows where the goats are at all times because there is a GPS sensor in the collar.
More time left
Clara has more time with this innovative system, she can now eat with her whole family every evening, something that was previously impossible. She would like to have her own cheese factory and now she has enough time to supervise the conversion of the building into a cheese factory. She thinks it is important that more and more people want to take the step towards extensive livestock farming. Because the work is so time-consuming, there are few of these types of companies left. As far as the innovative goat herder knows, she currently has the largest extensive, ecologically managed goat herd that you can herd remotely. She hopes that more companies will come, now that the work takes less time this way.
Prize from the European Commission
Clara won the prize because her goats play an important role in the recovery of the mountain area and the prevention of fires. The goats eat Cistus, a plant that is very flammable if left to grow unchecked. Goats are the only animals that can eat unlimited amounts of lingin. Lingine is a substance found in wood. Their menu promotes the recovery of biodiversity in the area. By grazing the goats, the growth of this plant is controlled, the area turns into more grassland and the restoration thus provides more diversity.
Clara runs the entire operation of her project, but she doesn’t do it alone. First she worked with the Madrid Community Fire Prevention Service, which cleared a strip of land for her. The goats then moved on. By grazing they kept the paths clear and controlled growth. The entire area covers 95 hectares of land and is owned by private individuals who have neglected this area.
Many universities and research centres have shown interest in Clara’s project and have taken samples to see how the quality of the soil improves. As it stands now, the moisture in the ground will continue to increase. The soil will contain more oxygen and be able to absorb more CO2. In this way, the area can regain the biodiversity of the past.
“The wolf was hiding between the bushes, I had never seen a wolf before and therefore thought it was the neighbour’s dog. I called him, but he didn’t respond. When I got home my husband showed me a picture of a wolf and I immediately recognised it. A wolf had not been seen in this area for 50 years. Due to the restoration of the soil, it is now attractive for the wolf to live here again. That’s why I bought the dogs to protect my goats. I haven’t seen a wolf since,” says Clara. The wolves did attack neighbours with a physical fence. So Clara was able to tell them that her guard dogs keep the wolves away from her flock.