The oak-based silvopastoral systems of the Mediterranean basin cover some 6 million hectares of land. Known as dehesas in Spain, montados in Portugal or meriagos in Sardinia (Italy), these systems are in rapid decline. This is a due to a combination of factors, including rural abandonment and low productivity. Prices of produce have declined in real terms in the last 30 years and estimates show that dehesas are currently lossmaking to the tune of €200/ha. Some landowners face losses of up to €500/ha due to phytophthora-related diseases. Simultaneously, agricultural subsidies are steadily decreasing.
In order for these valuable ecosystems to become viable, current production models must be transformed into cost-efficient operations that work with nature, not against it. Farmers will have to lower input costs, find alternative sources of income, recycle resources, stimulate natural regeneration, improve soil and increase farm productivity so that their land can become economically and environmentally sustainable.
LIFE Regenerate intends to prove a sustainable and profitable new business model for small and medium-sized farms on oak-based silvopastoral systems in Spain and Sardinia. Its main objective is to demonstrate that these farms can become self-sufficient and profitable based on added value production and resource efficiency, while conserving nature.
The project has the following specific objectives:
LIFE Regenerate will involve two different phases: demonstration and replication. During the demonstration stage, the model will be tested over 100 ha (40 ha in Spain and 60 ha in Sardinia). Successful demonstration will lead to the model being transferred and scaled up to 5 000 ha in Spain, Italy and Portugal, proving that the model is effective and highly replicable.
The project will contribute directly to many EU policies. The resulting ‘greening’ and increased competitiveness of this agriculture and forestry sub-sector is fully in line with the objectives of the Common Agricultural Policy. LIFE Regenerate will also contribute to the implementation of the Water Framework Directive, as it promotes efficient water use and will help improve the quality of EU water resources. By turning waste biomass into organic fertiliser and other valuable products, the project will avoid waste incineration, thus contributing to the EU Circular Economy Action Plan, the Waste Framework Directive and the EU 2020 Climate and Energy Package. Results will also foster implementation of the EU strategies on forestry, biodiversity and soil protection.