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Presentation on theme: "ORGANIC RICE FARMING AND WILDLIFE CONSERVATION IN DELTA DEL EBRO (Catalonia – Spain) Riet Vell Experience. Workshop Internationale PROGETTO LIFE ECORICE."— Presentation transcript:

1 ORGANIC RICE FARMING AND WILDLIFE CONSERVATION IN DELTA DEL EBRO (Catalonia – Spain) Riet Vell Experience. Workshop Internationale PROGETTO LIFE ECORICE June, 21st. 2013

2 SEO / BirdLife is fully aware about importance of traditional activities for conservation of biodiversity and birds in particular

3 For this reason, SEO / BirdLife has over 20 years working for a more sustainable and wildlife friendly farming Supporting agrienvironmental programs Promoting the protection of endangered habitats like steppes or wetlands. Working on demostrative projects

4 IMPORTANT BIRDS AREAS IN SPAIN 391 - 16 millones de hectáreas Ebro Delta Barcelona Valencia Madrid

5 55 species in Annex I of Birds Directive, very important for herons, seabirds & migratory waterfowl. World’s biggest colony of Audouin’s Gull. 22 other species in Annex IV of Habitats Directive 18 habitats in Annex I of Habitas Directive 8.000 ha of natural wetlands IMPORTANCE OF EBRO DELTA for biodiversity It is a protected area as: Ramsar site Special Protection Area for birds Natura 2000 Natural Park with two special Reserves

6 IMPORTANCE OF EBRO DELTA for people 50.000 inhabitants 500.000 tourists/year 21.000 ha of ricefields Fisheries: 18 million euros per year Rice farming: 60 million euros per year

7 Most of the Delta is occupied by rice fields and natural wetlands

8 A long term strategy for sustainability In 1997 we started a demostrative project looking at the environmental, agronomical and economic feasibility of organic rice: “Improvement of habitat management in the Ebro Delta SPA” (Life-Nature 96/E/512, 1997-2000). The main objective was to assess whether organic rice could be feasible, good for the environment and good for farmers.

9 An important result: Organic farming could be profitable.

10 The success of this pilot study led us to launch a much more ambitious initiative:. To create a commercial company (Riet Vell S.A.) dedicated to crop and sell the organic rice produced in its own land and also by other farmers.. It was necessary 600,000 € as starting capital, so we needed the participation of a lot of people, specially convinced with the idea.. With that money we would buy a 55 hectares rice farm, to be sustainable.. The company should be controlled by SEO/BirdLife, at least in the first stages.

11 . Initiative w as announced to the members of SEO/BirdLife and other similar organizations and through some specialized magazines.. About 200 people bought shares of the new company (Riet Vell, S.A.) with minimum investment of € 1,500, reaching € 800,000.. SEO / BirdLife currently owns 21% of the company, is the majority shareholder and controls the council.. The company began work in March 2001, buying a farm of 55 hectares, of which 11 were abandoned to restore natural marshes and 44 are used for organic production of rice. AND WE DID IT...

12 Some results. Almost 100% is sold with our own brand (Riet Vell). Main cooperatives of Delta buy, make ​​ and market organic rice and are already several mills that are certified to produce organic.. We work with other products that share the same philosophy.. Riet Vell's farm has become a reference for conservation and birdwatching in Ebro Delta, with over 5,000 visitors annually and an ongoing program with volunteers and environmental education.

13 Riet Vell rice is marketed with a clear message supporting the conservation of Ebro delta, its birds and their habitats.

14 Riet Vell develops different activities : - Agriculture, its main activity, based on organic rice production - Commercial, selling rice and pasta, and occasionally other products. - Studies and projects, focusing on different aspects of the Ebro delta conservation or organic rice production

15 In addition, the farm of Riet Vell is a major point of attraction for birdwatchers and visitors of the Ebro delta and, in collaboration with SEO/BirdLife, offers permanent programs for volunteers and environmental education.

16 MAIN AREAS OF RICE PRODUCTION IN SPAIN And rice areas of particular environmental importance: Delta del Ebro Albufera de Valencia Marismas del Guadalquivir

17 IN THESE AREAS, RICE PADDIES: Is an important supplementary habitat for natural marshes and many species Plays an important role in the supply and distribution of water to the wetlands Acts as a filter of the water quality. Distribute sediments of rivers...... But it is also a crop that occasionally causes negative impacts on the environment by the type of management and agrochemicals required.

18 THESE BENEFITS ARE STRONGER WITH ORGANIC RICE No use of agrochemicals Produce much more biomass …

19 HOWEVER, ORGANIC RICE FARMING IS NOT EASY AT ALL Strong professionalism is required Needs specific management of land and water levels, difficult to get in large rice homogeneous surfaces such as Ebro Delta and the Albufera It is a real challenge in areas like the Delta del Ebro, almost at sea level, with high salinity and with underground water very near of the surface, making very difficult or impossible to carry out crop rotations.

20 Despite these difficulties organic rice farming could be a key factor in the management of wetlands like Delta del Ebro, Albufera de Valencia or Marismas del Guadalquivir. Wetlands where public administration is responsible for a proper environmental conservation

21 SOME POINTS TO PROPOSAL ISSUES (1): CRITICALITIES (what are the major problems toward biodiversity as me and my institution perceive them?) and PRIORITIES (on the basis of my experience/study, and with regard to biodiversity enhancement/conservation) - Standardisation of rice cultivation and management - Diffuse pollution and toxicity (Nitrogen, agrochemicals…) - Exotic and invasive species (caracol manzana or Pomacea canaliculata or Golden Apple Snail) - Damage from wild species (Flamingos, Porphirio phorphirio, ducks…)

22 SOME POINTS TO PROPOSAL ISSUES (2): GOOD PRACTICE (By our knowledge, good practices that deals with the above problems) - Reduction of agrochemicals. Integrated Agriculture and organic farming - Diversification in water management and cultivation techniques. Development of fallow. Improvements in edges and boundaries. Complementary use of livestock. - A good design of agri-environmental measures. - Restoration of marshes and natural wetlands in big areas of rice fields - Required increase of scientific and technical knowledge available

23 SOME POINTS TO PROPOSAL ISSUES (3): Main CONFLICTS and OPPORTUNITIES related to rice-farming management and biodiversity conservation. Conflicts: - Diffuse pollution and toxicity - Homogenization of the crop and water management - Damage from wild species Opportunities : - Increase of consumer´s appreciation for values ​​ such as proximity and environmental or social implications - Increase of social awareness about environmental problems and sustainability - Exceptional richness in terms of biodiversity in some rice areas

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