Regeneration and biodiversity: Internship at La Junquera

February 2, 2023

I have been a student enrolled in the Regeneration Academy and recently completed an internship at La Junquera. Today, La Junquera focuses on achieving sustainable production while restoring farmland and natural areas by reducing erosion, improving fertility, increasing water infiltration, and creating conditions to increase biodiversity. Five years ago, they launched Regeneration Academy to educate present and future generations in regenerative agriculture. They have designed different programs for doing research,entrepreneurship, ecosystem restoration, and sharing knowledge about regenerative agriculture techniques. Along with five other students from the Netherlands, Croatia, and Australia, we wanted to incorporate a constructive vision of ecosystem restoration in our research projects, as we were asked to help reflect on the future of the farms in this region. Furthermore, we received practical knowledge from working in the fields where we get an insight into the real-life examples, challenges, and opportunities in this field.

In the southeast of Spain, there are serious problems with desertification due to climate change and the long history of conventional agricultural practices. The soils are degraded, aquifers are overexploited. Biodiversity loss has been an important challenge in this area, which is why regenerative agriculture is seen here as an important solution that might contribute to restoration. Due to these reasons, Alfonso and Yanniek decided to start with regenerative agriculture farming practices 10 years ago. They created a regenerative agriculture farm on 1,100 hectares called La Junquera.

I have had the opportunity to work on a research project focused on evaluating and monitoring the farm's biodiversity using the Biodiversity Performance Tool, which was developed through the EU LIFE Programme. The tool was used on a new farm in the research program, El Roble,which is transitioning to organic and regenerative. I was able to participate in activities such as pruning almonds, olive, grape and pistachio harvests, visiting the soil museum at the University of Murcia, and meeting experts to learn about the region of Murcia. Furthermore, we got practical experience such as making hand balms with lavender essential oil, and learning about the management and tracking of wildlife in the natural area of the farm, and we organized a family planting day where 40 people came to our farm El Roble to plant a hedge and learn about regenerative agriculture. I also participated in a planting day with the Ecosystem Restoration Camp Altiplano, which is focused on restoring the landscape on farm La Junquera.

One of the highlights of my internship was visiting other farms in the south of Spain, Naranjas del Carmen, an orange farm close to Valencia that works with CrowdFarming. I also visited the syntropic farm La Loma Viva close to Granada and participated in the organic olive harvest on Guatazalesnear a small-town Bullas. Another interesting visit was to the ecological plum farm Los Gorros close to the town of Moratalla, which also works with agrotourism.The 120-ha farm is located in the forest which is a part of the Natura 2000 network. We helped with forest management, which is important for protection against fire and more light helps with new plant growth.

I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the team at La Junquera and for their dedication to addressing issues of desertification,erosion, and biodiversity loss in the region. The internship has been an extremely valuable experience for me, providing me with a deep understanding of regenerative agriculture and the importance of preserving biodiversity. I look forward to continuing to learn and make a positive impact in this field.

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