The Fuenlabrada Agricultural Park
There are different experiences linked to protecting agricultural landscapes and catalysing agriculture for the home market. In this sense, we should mention the initiatives that are being developed by different agricultural parks in Spain. In particular, we should highlight the experience of Fuenlabrada Agricultural Park in the Madrid Community, which carries out different strategies to boost the texture and productive economy of peri-urban agricultural land in the municipality, following the principles of agroecology and social economy, to guarantee the production and consumption of fresh, seasonal produce to its neighbours. The role of women –like the one in the picture- is proving essential.
They were landscapes with a strong cultural content, smallholding clearly being the protagonist, of an eminently family kind, and they carried out organic farming while they managed an important heritage of personal and communal goods. In the past, peri-urban agricultural systems played an important role in food provision to the capital, as well as meeting local demands in the old rural districts which are now metropolitan cities.
Due to the process of metropolitan expansion, the countryside and plains to the south of and close to the capital were subject to deep changes, as happened to other traditional landscapes in Spain. Nowadays, only a few of those food-producing landscapes remain, in spite of their great value, not just to ensure food security for the city, but also because of its cultural, historical and ecological values. These per-urban agricultural landscapes which acted bio-regionally in the past, are now facing an uncertain future. Firstly due to a lack of specific policies from the regional government to prevent the un controlled destruction which stems from the pressures of urban development. And also due to the clear break produced by the dominant mass culture which rejects all things agricultural, local and traditional, and has broken links between the city and the nearest rural surroundings, which is a result of the globalising of the food system. On the other hand, the low return of the primary sector is leading to the abandonment of many per-urban agricultural activities and the deterioration of the cultural heritage sheltered by the landscape which has lost its symbolic value.
In the end, inordinate occupation of fertile land, high consumption of non-renewable resources, relocation and uprooting of food and high energy consumption are factors which are evidently proving to be the driving force of the ecological crisis and food insecurity in the 21st century, not just locally but also on a planetary level. However, as we shall see, certain local initiatives are emerging led by councils such as Fuenlabarada and by food and land networks in defence of agricultural spaces, like the Federación Intervegas, which are inverting this trend