Rural Development

ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION

Currently we live a confusing work period, in which the solution to opt for a paid work seems to be through self-employment. In recent times, the words entrepreneur and/or entrepreneurship seem to be trendy; it is the same way to say, to start-up a business project. But recently, this has taken a 180-degree turn, as more and more people choose to undertake an activity but also to generate social benefits and/or environmental improvements in their direct territory. I was recently asked, “How do you see yourself in a future in your work?” My response was overwhelming, and without needing to think too much, perhaps in a utopian way, but convinced of it, I replied: “Transforming the world.”

I was recently asked, “How do you see yourself in a future in your work?” My response was overwhelming, and without needing to think too much, perhaps in a utopian way, but convinced of it, I replied: “Transforming the world.”

There is a growing number of companies that want to be sustainable, and this will only be achieved by working directly with people: customers, society, employees or, suppliers, among others. At the end, companies that are struggling for a social change are sustainable companies, understanding this as the threefold result: economic, social and environmental. What do we want people who are dedicated to the so-called “social or sustainable enterprise?” We want that with our services, products or activities, we achieve a fairer and more equitable environment, where there are opportunities for everyone, integrating all social groups, but also promoting ambitious measures that support an environmental protection and the fight against climate change.

Very nice and very utopian… but is this real or are you an NGDO? Yes, this is real, and nobody working in social entrepreneurship are an ONGD’s. Although we must recognize that it is harder to start this kind of business model, because to start up it, first of all is that every person who makes up the team must have a decent salary, or an equitable distribution of profits. If this premise is not met, then it is not a sustainable company,  and much less wants to promote a social change. On the other hand, I am not going to apologize for wanting to make a  living, that is, I carry out environmental consultancy services, sustainable tourism, technical assistance for rural development, environmental education,… among others. These are services that, for certain individuals or groups, should be made for free. Well, NO. It is my job. The time invested in preparing the activities, in visiting the territories, in investigating strategies that promote the social and economic development of a territory,… All of this involves a great effort and a great knowledge associated, and all people need money to live. That I have decided to put into practice in my work a philosophy of life does not mean that I have to do it for free.

Yes yes! This is beautiful, but put me practical examples! Well, imagine a food company that decides to pay the fair price to its suppliers, bet on the sale of products of Km0 and/or ecological and avoid the use of plastic bags among its customers. Or a company that forms and works women with difficulties to access to the labour market (for whatever reason), or people with disabilities. Let’s take the case of a beekeeping company that only sells the honey produced by their bees (if possible in a nearby area), without pesticides or fertilizers, worrying about the local biodiversity and restoring the cultural heritage associated. Or, on the other hand, companies that take advantage of the collection, cleaning and transformation of waste, used oil, to generate by-products giving a second chance to these remains that would end up buried or incinerated. Finally, a travel agency that promotes responsible and social trips among its clients, with activities committed to the territory visited and paying fair prices to its collaborators. All these examples, and many more, exist, are real and profitable, and could be offered a detailed explanataion on each experience described.

Social or sustainable entrepreneurship is a double opportunity. On the one hand, we are generating an economic benefit, not only for ourselves, but also to our employees, collaborators or suppliers. On the other hand, we strive to improve our territories. We work to change the world. The only thing we ask for is to favor the existence of public policies that help and support this type of organizations, not only with access to sources of funding, but with visibility, with free public counseling centers, with information or with incentives for entities that promote a social and environmental well-being of the population. Simply, do not put us in trouble when someone wants to start up a work activity that involves sustainable purposes.

 

The only thing we ask for is to favor the existence of public policies that help and support this type of organizations, not only with access to sources of funding, but with visibility, with free public counseling centers, with information or with incentives for entities that promote a social and environmental well-being of the population. Simply, do not put us in trouble when someone wants to start up a work activity that involves sustainable purposes.

WHAT IS GEOTOURISM?

The concept Geotourism is a relatively new and unknown term in Spain that is commonly linked to Geological Tourism.

Etymologically “Geo” means Earth. It is a prefix that comes from the ancient Greek γεω- (geō), prefix derived from γῆ (gê, “earth”). Therefore, Geotourism is a tourism based on the “characteristics of the earth”.

Jonathan B. Tourtellot, director of the National Geographic for Sustanaible Destination, has been the creator of the concept Geotourism, which defines it as:

“A concept based on the geographical characteristics of a place. It is a tourism that sustains, or even enhances, the geographical character of a place, such as its culture, environment, heritage, and the well-being of its residents”. Geotourism highlights the relationship between tourism and “the sense of place”.

Unlike ecotourism, which only includes Nature Tourism, geotourism deals with everything that encompasses the evolution of a place in a unique and distinct destination. It is about visiting places in a special and authentic way: flora, fauna, geology, ethnography, native breeds, traditional music and dances, archaeological sites, picturesque landscapes, handicrafts and animals, on which traditional food is based, but above all, The people who live there. To do geotourism is to discover a territory in depth.

Embalse de Grandas

Embalse de Grandas

Geotourism carries out the criteria of Sustainable Tourism. According to the World Tourism Organization (WTO), sustainable tourism is “tourism that takes full account of current and future economic, social and environmental impacts to meet the needs of visitors, industry, the environment and communities Hostesses. Geotourism must contribute to the development of the communities that are visited: to integrate these people in our trip, to know how they live, how they work and how they contribute to the cultural conservation of the landscape. But these, for their part, should also protect what attracts travelers. It is a mutual commitment, a responsibility to care the territory.

Geotourism can also be considered as a Creative Tourism, as it tries to creatively integrate tourists and destinations, with the aim of developing unique, participative and creative experiences. This new tourism aims to make travelers more committed to the area they visit.

Visiting authentic places, involving in the culture of their territories, we contribute to the maintenance and conservation of landscapes, gastronomy, handicrafts, ecosystems, but above all, the inhabitants. We promote the local development of the people who inhabit these spaces, encouraging them to continue living and fighting for their dreams.

 

Would you like to drink and asturian cider?

Would you like to drink and asturian cider?

THE IMPORTANCE OF KNOWING HOW TO PLANT POTATOES

THE IMPORTANCE OF KNOWING HOW TO PLANT POTATOES

  • - Do you know what I’m remembering right now?
  • - What are you thinking about, grandma?
  • - I’m thinking about the first time that you planted potatoes.
  • - Why do you remember it rigth now?
  • - Because I’m looking at the orchards, meadows, mountains and chestnut trees and I can only see the abandonment of our rural area. Everything is going to die.
  • - I don’t understand what you are trying to say me.
  • - When you were 3 years old your parents left you with us during a week. We were planting potatoes and you were playing with our cats. Suddenly, you appeared at the orchard and you asked us if you could “play” with us, because you thought it was very fun. We thought you were going to get tired after 5 minutes, because planting potatoes is not a pleasant task. It is very hard. We explain you our mission once and it was not neccessary to explain you the task twice. You were working all day with us and do not get tired at not time. When our neighbors passed along the road while you were working, they looked at you and smiled. We are so proud of you. You were going to be our future.
  • - Why was it so important to you?
  • - Because nobody wants to live here, so far from everything. Because at that moment we could see the abandonment of rural areas were coming. The villages have no life. Nobody knows the importance of knowing how to plant potatoes.

 

Rural landscape endangered

Rural landscape endangered

It is estimated that in Spain 7 out of every 10 people live in urban areas. People prefers to live in places where can enjoy of a comfortable life near their jobs, hospitals, schools, colleges and leisure facilities nearby. All these aspects make these areas more attractive for the majority of the Spanish population. Nobody wants to live in oblivion. No one wants that their children have to travel every day 20 kilometers on a road in a horrible state to go to school or college. And this conditions, at best. Because there are situations where they have to cross mountain passes to get there, with all that this implies. And it is the same problem if they need to go to a health center, or to get to their jobs. Would this be different if we could enjoy of basic services needed for a good and decent quality of life? Would more people go to live to a small village?

This was a real conversation. It reflects how important was the territory for our grandparents. Why it is not for us? Nobody wants to live in the countryside. There is not a generational replacement. Chestnut trees that have been removed so hungry in the toughest times of our history, and how important they were for our ancestors, are sick. They will be lost if nobody heal them at time. Nobody knows our medicinal plants, because they prefer to go to a pharmacy. It is so simple. The fields and mountains are completely abandoned because they do not have any functionality. Most of our traditional houses are already colonized by vegetation. But neither we have wanted to inherit our traditional legacy.

Our cultural and ethnographic heritage and the “indigenous” knowledge has been lost. Yes, it is. We are all Indians, natives of our territory. Because the term indigenous refers to our origin, and all of we have our provenience. What is sadder still is that we have completely disowned our roots. Countrymen and countrywomen are also endangered species.

Orchard in which someone has ripped the potatoes

Orchard in which someone has ripped the potatoes

If everything is abandoned, if there is almost no orchards or livestock, … Have we thought about the origin of food we consume daily? Moreover we do not have any idea neither we eat daily nor its origin, but it is more important the desire to change the world. Take a very simple example. If we buy potatoes to a person who has chosen to live and work in a rural area, in addition to put a name and a surname to our food, we are not only providing an economic benefit to that person, but also a social benefit, because this little action will increase their self-esteem. He will keep fighting and working to bring forward their potatoes and teach other people their skills. More people will settle in this or other territories. Not only that. This will also help to conserve and mantain our landscapes, our nature and our biodiversity, and these aspects are we love to enjoy when we have free time on weekends, right? Is not true that the food tastes different when we have a name and a last name we know? This, together with the smile and the happiness with we eat its food, give it a special and unique flavor to the dish. We can not imagine how important is to consume local products. We help people who want to stay in their territory and avoid that they will not have to leave it, we know what we eat, we keep population in rural areas, we avoid the abandonment of our landscapes, we preserve our cultural heritage,… even we help to tackling climate change, do you need more reasons?

It is no nonsense to know how plant potatoes. People who have this knowledge, have the license to feed a whole territory. They have the will to change the world.

Potato plant in an orchard resisting the loneliness

Potato plant in an orchard that is resisting the loneliness

THE ORIGIN OF THE PASTURES OF PICOS DE EUROPA NATIONAL PARK

Any landscape may appear different depending on how you look at it. Some people pay more attention to flowers; trees; rocks or fossils; glaciers; and other people prefer to observe the traces and messages that other humans, who have lived in a territory along of its history, have left to us. The landscape is a book with many chapters, and each chapter has its respective interpretation: a chapter is dedicated to botany, another talks about wildlife, geology also has great importance in this book… Although there are many chapters written in the landscape, with different items, all of them are related to humans. This is the most important and extensive chapter written on the landscape. A chapter that is still being written, that remains alive, and we hope that it will never end.

Cows near The Lakes of Covadonga

Cows near The Lakes of Covadonga

This is the first article devoted to heritage interpretation and the reading of the landscape, with emphasis on the relationship between humans and nature. In this case we will talk about the importance of geology for people; to the shepherds of the Picos de Europa. Because people and nature need each other. We want also to pay a tribute to the shepherds of the Picos de Europa. Maybe some people consider it slightly bizarre, but we will try to explain it.

Have you ever wondered why Picos de Europa National Park are so important and essential to livestock? The geology has a primary and basic role in it. This article, without getting into technical or scientific details, summarizes more than 500 million years of geological history of the National Park, a history that has coexisted with the shepherds of the Picos de Europa, in many cases without realizing it.

The rocks are also very important for birds, as this is the place chosen by many species of birds to nest

The rocks are also very important for birds, as this is the place chosen by many species of birds to nest

There are various processes that result the current shape of the montains of Picos de Europa, in particular, and the Cantabrian Mountains, in general. The geological history of Picos de Europa National Park is long and complex, and dates back more than 500 million years, when there were no elevations. At that time, the territory had a tropical climate, period in which the most ancient rocks of the Park were deposited in a coastal and marine environment. In the course of more than half million of years, as a result of tectonic plates moving, changes in latitude, the processes of deformation suffered in rocks by important orogenies, changes in sea level, among others; the sediments, that subsequently formed the rocks of the Park, were accumulated in very different environments: deep marine environments, shallow marine, deltaic systems and even river systems. Although, undoubtedly, the Carboniferous limestones are the main rocks in the park. These aspects indicate that the National Park had a marine influence for many years.

Picture taken from the top of Cotalba

Picture taken from the top of Cotalba

The geological process that has contributed to provide more “personality” to the National Park has been the Alpine Orogeny. This is the stage in which the rocks that were deposited over more than 500 million years, were rose up to form the current Cantabrian Mountains. This process began about 50 million years ago, and whose result has been the formation of the mountains, with their characteristics elevations and slopes, loved by mountaineers and explorers, and the pastures in which the cattle graze in these mountains, close to their sheperds. They are people who works under extremely harsh conditions.

The geological process that has contributed to provide more “personality” to the National Park has been the Alpine Orogeny. This is the stage in which the rocks that were deposited over more than 500 million years, were rose up to form the current Cantabrian Mountains.

Picture taken from the top of Jultayu

Picture taken from the top of Jultayu

Once the raising of the Cantabrian Mountains concluded, started the configuration and modeling of the current relief, influenced by different factors such as the type of rocks or the variations in the past and present climate, among others. As an example of the climatic influence are the rest of glaciers that we can observe in the National Park. This was a phenomena that began 100,000 years ago approximately. The ice have had a determinant part on the modeling of the landscap. This episode have left us forms like glacial lakes, glacial valleys and glacial cirques, among other forms that form, undoubtedly, a stunning landscape.

Glacier forms close to The Lakes of Covadonga

Glacier forms close to The Lakes of Covadonga

We must not forget the fluvial dynamics, as a result of the erosive power of water on the limestones. The National Park is located within the watersheds of the Sella river, Deva river and Cares river. In fact, the Sella and Deva rivers mark the western and eastern boundaries, respectively, of the National Park. In addition, Cares and Duje Rivers (the last one is a tributary of Cares river) separate the National Park in three parts, that are known by the names of the Eastern Massif or Andara, Central Massif or Urrielles and Western Massif or Cornión. This important fluvial dynamics have created breathtaking forms like gorges and canyons, like the gorge of Los Beyos or Cares Gorge.

Cares river

Cares river

If there is a really important process for cattle, it is the solution of the limestone, known as karstification, and they still continue until the present day. This process, produced by water action on limestone, has become National Park in one of the karst landscapes most important in the world. The karstification process has created forms such as surface cracks on the rocks, depressions or sinkholes, poljes (depressions of considerable size) or blind valleys. The limestones are composed of calcium carbonate, but also contain insoluble materials such as clays. When limestone is dissolve by water action, this process generate decalcification clays which are accumulated on the limestone and it causes the formation of soils. Although this process is also the cause of numerous livestock losses, because the cattle can fall inside the sinkholes that connect with the underground cavities. Asturias, in general, and the Picos de Europa, in particular, is like a big gruyère cheese, because under the soil there are hidden great treasures, which only the most intrepid speleologists have managed to discover, being considered this territory as the Himalayas of cavers. Some of its main sinkholes are considered between the deepest caves in the world.

If there is a really important process for cattle, it is the solution of the limestone, known as karstification, and they still continue until the present day.

Poljé de Comeya

Poljé de Comeya

The Picos de Europa National Park is considered as the Himalayas to speleologists.  Some of its main sinkholes are considered between the deepest caves in the world.

As we have seen, this complex territory is the landscape that our countrymen and countrywomen observe daily, their home, their workplace, a place that they adore, care, admire and respect, and a landscape in which sheperds have written. Geology has had a great importance in this story, in their story. Because the geology is necessary for these people, as well as to generate the pasture where the cattle are fed, the elevations to which they have to face to develop their noble work; the geology also provides them the necessary resources to build their cabins. We must protect this endangered work, the sheperds of Picos de Europa, but we must also protect, preserve and maintain our environment, our home, because the landscapes we see are a process that takes millions of years in nature, and we should not spoil because of our misunderstanding and misconceptions.

Bull and cows graze close to the Lakes of  Covadonga, where we can see the impressive slopes of the highest mountains, the glacier valleys and glacier cirques and the limestone solution process.

Bull and cows graze close to the Lakes of Covadonga, where we can see the impressive slopes of the highest mountains, the glacier valleys and glacier cirques and the limestone solution process.

We must protect this endangered work, the sheperds of Picos de Europa, but we must also protect, preserve and maintain our environment, our home, because the landscapes we see are a process that takes millions of years in nature, and we should not spoil because of our misunderstanding and misconceptions.

ECOTOURISM IN SPAIN

In recent times, people have been talking a lot about Ecotourism, within the Tourism Sector, but, do we really know what is ecotourism? Is Ecotourism synonymous with Nature Tourism? Are we using correctly this term? In this post, weshall try to dispel these doubts, and always fromthestandpoint of the people who make up the human team of Lláscara.

Ecotourism is a “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”.

“The International Ecotourism Society” defined Ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”. That means that agents, managers and companies that develop and promote ecotourism activities, and people who travel to this areas, should adopt a set of ecotourism principles:

  • Minimize environmental and social impacts
  • Increase awareness and respect of the population and visitors for the environment and local culture
  • Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts
  • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation
  • Generate financial and social development of the territories visited

In many cases, Ecotourism is confused with nature tourism, and as far as can be judged from the definition, Ecotourism is not the same as Nature Tourism, which is defined as any activity in contact with nature. So, why do we confuse?

Ecotourism is not the same as Nature Tourism

Firstly, over the past year, many initiatives have been formed wrongly termed “Ecotourism Project” from our point of view. But, why do we say this “wrongly termed”? The first clue that we consider essential for a real Ecotourism Activity is to involve the rural population in our activities. It is important that people who live and work in peasant territories feel recognized, valued and loved by the visitors, and, of course, that will provide direct economic benefits to them. It is no use to take a group of people to a rural area, and not talking about a typical product, visiting an artisan, farmer or rancher, and of course, to taste their products, and they may buy some products. Thus, local population will not only increase their self-esteem, but also they will be increased their income and recognized the value of its work.

Ganado en el Puerto de la Montaña de Covadonga

Cows in the Lakes of Covadonga

It is important that people who live and work in peasant territories feel recognized, valued and loved by the visitors, and, of course, that will provide direct economic benefits to them.

Secondly, and not less important, the basis for high-quality tourism must not allow large groups in rural or natural areas. On the one hand, because it is not only the rural population who is living there that are affected, and who are never asked their opinion in tourism management, but also we may cause impacts on the environment, mainly to the flora and fauna. With the term “fauna” we are not just talking about the wildlife, but also on the impacts that may be caused to the livestock by this unsustainable mass tourism. Would we like to be walking on our streets or workplaces groups of 20 or 30 people, at least, walking, talking and throwing trash on the ground (in the the worst case)? The answer may be a resounding no. And, it is no acceptable to say now that this problem is not our business, or, “it is only one day”. Because yes, it is possible that we will be able to visit a particular area one day with our groups; but the next day another group will be able to visit it; the day after tomorrow another one,… and so on.

Goats on the road of Ponga Nature Park

Goats on the road of Ponga Nature Park

Lately, can be found ecotourism projects that arise as a result to promote territories which do not receive the number of visitors who are expected (sometimes we wonder what is the ideal number of visitors which is considered by the tourist managers, because as they say “you can’t please everybody”). To do this, events such as “Natura 2000 Day”, “World Environment Day”, or any other similar event, leading groups of more than 30 people to a protected natural area, but,… ¿Is it possible that such events increase social and economic benefits of the rural population? Do we really know what is the Natura 2000 network? Does Natura 2000 Network exist all year round or only on May 21st? And what about the rest of the year? Or easier, do we know what is the Environment and Rural Development? It seems that ecotourism or nature tourism are only for special days, and the rest of the year we can promote Snow Tourism or Hunting Tourism; in our view, totally incompatible with a responsible and sustainable tourism. Perhaps,it is caused by ignorance, but it seems that Ecotourism is another to promote territories or regions, without taking into account the opinion and feelings of the population and their economic activities. it seems that tourism management will be continued by the same way, but with another creative and innovative name. Therefore, it is really necessary training and awareness so that such things do not happen. Sometimes, it’s just ignorance.

It seems that this is a slightly negative message, but This is not such a negative message, because there are small ecotourism initiatives at a national an international level that provide a message of hope and support to other people that another tourism model is possible. It is only neccesary to want to do things well, enthusiasm and passion for our job, so that that they can change or improve things to the best of their ability.

Next year 2017, will be the International Year of Sustainable Tourism, and it could be a good time for change.

Cows in Ubiñas-La Mesa Nature Park

Cows in Ubiñas-La Mesa Nature Park

 

LLÁSCARA NAMED AS EXEMPLARY EXPERIENCE BY FÉLIX RODRÍGUEZ DE LA FUENTE FOUNDATION

Lláscara, Experiencia Ejemplar de la Fundación Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente

Lláscara, Experiencia Ejemplar de la Fundación Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente

It was two years ago when Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente Foundation, through the program CoEmprender, contacted me to be part of that project that began in January 2014. This project was based on mutual advice, solidarity and cooperation between the entity exemplary settled in a rural area and the professional entrepreneur, currently unemployed, who moves to the entity. The program was designed to promote and create new sustainable projects in rural Spanish environment and establish working ties among participants. At that time, I was the entrepreneur unemployed, and my friends Chema and Belén, the company, Itinerantur, who will be eternally grateful for welcoming me into their home and their company. We were the first people to sign this project, which helped us to appear in some piece of news.

tumblr_inline_n02afoYFBA1rhwwzc

Two years later, after much effort and hard days of work, Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente Foundation, this time through the “Exemplary Experiences program”, has named Lláscara as Exemplary Experience. There are no words to describe the happiness that I feel right now!

Click on this link for more information

According to Felix Rodriguez de la Fuente Foundation “Exemplary experiences are initiatives of rural areas that are the paradigm of convergence, led by persons or institutions involved in the conservation and survival of the rural and natural world. These experiences are real examples that show the the relationship between Man and Earth for the benefit of biodiversity and the countryside. ”

Thanks to everyone who made possible this recognition in our first year of existence! All of you are responsible for it, and of course thanks to the Foundation, because since I started my self-employment adventure has always been there showing me their support, and what is most important to me, giving visibility to exemplary projects in rural areas, and fighting for these territories. People who live and work in these areas are the guarantors of biodiversity conservation and caregivers of our landscapes. It is an honor for Lláscara be in this program, for all what it means.

Thank you!

I would like to take this opportunity of wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I wish that 2016 brings us more authentic experiences in the Asturian countryside!

THE SAN CHUIS FORT: CULTURAL HERITAGE ABANDONED

The San Chuis fort is located on the top of San Chuis peak, a distance of 6.5 km from Allande, and it has been recognized as the most important fort core of the territory because of its location.

Castro San Chuis

The fort sits on a promontory surrounded by a large moat that bounds the west fort, protected by five moats. In the east and north area, you can still see part of its walls, built by the system of rectangular modules attached rounded corners.

Castro San Chuis

It was occupied by indigenous communities, first, that it started approximately in the eighth century AD, during the Iron Age, followed by a Roman occupation, whose presence is manifested in the first century AD It is believed that it was linked to gold mining in Roman times. From the fort you can admire the surrounding mountains and the abundance of ancient gold mines. The excavations of the fort began in the 60s of last century and is believed to be excavated only 30% full.

Castro San Chuis

There are two distinct sectors in the fort. The lower section is made up of circular huts with walls of slate tabular arranged according to the general characteristics of the Iron Age urbanism. The upper section shows cabins with right angles and dividing walls, lined with several regular units. Stresses paving streets with slabs of slate. In the excavation work they have recovered objects such as ceramics, a canalization of water and a sculpture of a human face.

Castro San Chuis

On Sunday August 16 I decided to take a trip around the area of Allande, a beautiful territory with a high natural, cultural and tourism values. It had been two years since I visited the fort and what I found was a sorry state of conservation of the fort, very sad. How is it possible that such an important element of our cultural heritage, declared as a Place of Cultural Interest is in a state of total abandonment? So little affection we have for our history and our culture?

Castro San Chuis

The photos show crumbling walls and cabins that they are about to fall down, cabins filled with ferns, a field full of heather, gorse and brambles, the uncut grass, birch trees growing between the main wall and the walls of the huts, that their roots will demolish part of the walls, and thus end up an important part of our heritage.

Castro San Chuis

Also I wonder how it can be possible that such an impressive place, with a large history and with a high tourist value is not visited or does not have a program of guided visits. During the 4 hours that we were there visiting and photographing the fort it came only two people, It is no possible for a Sunday in the August festive nationwide. Note that the access to the fort area is poorly treated, and certainly in the rainy season, will be worse, and the signalling to get from the main road AS-14 is very poor.

Castro San Chuis

From here I claim that, please,it is neccesary that a maintenance work is carried out in the fort, since the density of vegetation could ruin the archaeological site. I think a good paneling also be required to perform a self guided tour of the fort from the litle town of San Martin de Beduledo. A very nice and interesting path to visit the area of the fort: the countryside, the forest, roman gold mining, and of course the archaeological site. It would be wonderful to Allande put their region on the map, and people will enjoy the environment and leave our territory with very good taste. Another option is the training of local guides. Visitors could make a guided tour of high quality, and thus the creation and consolidation of employment in the area.

Castro San Chuis

It is our heritage, if we abandon it we are losing a fundamental part of our history, we are destroying ourselves.

Castro San Chuis

THE CHESTNUT TREES

I am now at home, but that means that I am in the place where I grew up. I am not alone, I am next to my grandmother, my grandfather, my father and my mother, and from whom I learned to love my land and never forget my origin and, above all, to feel proud of growing up in a rural area. I’m writing this blog post under an apple tree, while I admire the cloudy landscape of Sierra del Aramu and the Natural Park and Biosphere Reserve Ubiñas-La Mesa, and while I am watching the chestnut tree in full bloom of the Fonte’l Molín forest. This landscape carries me to a time when it all began, without my knowledge. Yes, this week I am going to talk about feelings, but the Heritage Interpretation is also based on interpreting our feelings about a particular interpretive resource.

Fuente'l molín

How many memories! Many experiences! Chestnut trees as witnesses of local history, and also my story. The first memory I have of the chestnut trees are the stories of my grandmother, about those chestnuts that had feeded to her family at times of greatest hardship. Each tree belonged to a family, but in times of great need the chestnut were distributed among all neighbours, and were stored in a traditional construction, corras, and helped them to endure the long winter, and feed the animals.

Ecoturismo en Asturias

Later these trees were also mine, and not as my property, but as part of my personal testimony, like when I went with my grandfather to see ours cows, sheep and horses. We spend all afternoon sitting under its shade, while we talked about the importance of maintaining the forest, to take care the landscape and how people were ashamed about their origins and the houses fell down, because they prefer spend their leisure time in cities, not in rural forgotten areas. How important were chestnut and hazelnut in the Asturian peasant economy. We cannot imagine it.

Ecoturismo en Asturias

The chestnut or Castanea sativa is a deciduous tree of the Fagaceae family. It blooms in late May and this month we can be see it in full bloom. It is believed that this trees came to Spain with the Romans, although there are studies that confirm that was here before the conquest, anyhow, this is a tree that takes many years between us, which has been a silent witness to history of the villages, and that has helped us and accompanied on the journey of our life.

Ecoturismo en Asturias

The chestnut not only provided food to people in rural areas, but also helped us to develop and evolve us. One of the nicest memories which I remember, and not long time ago that it happened, is going with my father to the forest to cut down branches of chestnut tree. He searches, selects and studies, in great detail and with love, the best branches to make their own tools. As I accompanied him, we talked at length about the importance of a good forest management, and about the sadness he feels that nobody really minds to pick up chestnuts, and the chestnut trees, possibly by thw sadness of no one values them and their daughters (chestnuts), are dying of grief. And this is literal, because chestnut trees are drying or sick from chancre or other diseases, and we do not realize that we are losing our cultural and natural heritage, but also our memory.

Ecoturismo en Asturias

During this month, flowering chestnut and the smell of grass, it brings me memories impossible to erase of my childhood, and I am proud to have lived.

Ecoturismo en Asturias

In September, we will dedicate several heritage interpretation activities in Asturias to this tree, my friend, my good fellow. I would like honour him, because he gave me the most beautiful moments of my life.

ENDANGERED HERITAGE

Nowadays we are always arguing about the conservation of biodiversity and natural heritage and the restoration of ecosystems, because they are important issues in the fight against climate change. They are important issues too the sustainable use of biodiversity and its importance in creating green jobs and to advance a model of sustainable development.

The biodiversity and landscapes in general have been kept and preserved by people who work and live in rural areas, whose knowledge and expertise has contributed to maintain alive the landscape. But, what about the intangible cultural heritage? Who protects the indigenous knowledge?

Paisaje visto desde Urbiés (Turón, Asturias)

Landscape from Urbiés (Turón, Asturias)

The first weekend of June in Urbiés (Turón, Asturias) took place the event of Quesu d’Urbiés. It is a cheese with a strong flavour and penetrating smell, with a slight bitter touch. A delight for all people who love cheese, and as good as other famous cheeses. Unfortunately, it is an “endangered cheese”. Yes, there are not only endangered  species, there are also traditional products that are close to disappear, that’s means that there are people in danger of extinction, the guardians of knowledge.

Certamen del Quesu d'Urbiés 2015

Urbiés cheese fair 2015

I think it is time to start talking about recovery of local food and indigenous knowledge, we should try to involve local people in promoting green jobs. Our landscapes are not only natural landscapes and cultural landscapes, they are also gastronomic landscapes: cows, sheep, goats or horses grazing, cereal species, bee hives, mills, stables, barns, hazel trees… etc. Why not tourism companies began to make interpretations of our culinary landscape? The landscape is not only flora, fauna and rocks, it is indigenous knowledge, too.

Quesu d'Urbiés

Urbiés cheese

The landscape has a functionality and this function can be very important in rural development to create green jobs and keeping rural population. But to do this we must involve local people. Why not make a workshop to learn to elaborate Urbiés cheese? We can learn from local cheesemakers to make this delicious cheese, and to appreciate our heritage. Perhaps someone decides to live in Urbiés and find in this wonderful rural village a place to live and work. This would be the better way to preserve our landscapes, because people are also biodiversity.

 #SOSRuralEnvironment

Paisaje típico de la zona central asturiana

Typical landscape in the central region of Asturias

ASTURIAS. A LANDSCAPE TRANSFORMED IN A ETHNOGRAPHIC MUSEUM

Over the last decades, it has been very important the policy of protecting natural areas as a key part of regional planning. The Protected Natural Areas of Asturias represent more than 30% of the territory, a very high figure compared with about 10% in Spain. This protection is aimed to reconcile nature conservation with the rational use of land, ie, the maintenance of traditional economic activities and the promotion of environmental education, research, leisure and rural development in these protected areas.

A Path in Turón, Asturias

A Path in Turón, Asturias

When we talk about nature, we always refer to the conservation of biodiversity or geodiversity (although the last one is the ugly stepsister of natural sciences). Biotic and abiotic elements that we are required to maintain and learn. But the habitat or ecosystem of these living or nonliving things is the same where people have established our homes since before 7000 BC when the first civilizations of humans began to become sedentary populations.

Throughout all these thousands of years, the landscape has been transformed. In some cases there is no doubt that these transformations have left a serious injury that will take a long time to heal, as Campa de Tormaleo (Ibias) or the Central Coal Basin where open cast mining came with dreams and destroyed everything in its way, to leave sadness and abandonment, finally. At other times human populations have known to preserve and maintain the landscape, and even have learned  to live with the local wildlife, as in the southwest of Asturias with the brown bear. A landscape in which we can see the cultural expressions that these local populations have left throughout the course of history and that are already part of our own culture.

Landscape near death

Landscape near death

But, What is happening in Asturias? Lots of abandoned ethnographic elements that do not have any use and are about to fall. A landscape that we insist on calling a mythological landscape that it has an only use, to receive tourists , it is similar to going to a museum and look at a painting more than 50 feet away, but we can not pass the red tape that limits the contact with the artwork. But be careful! I am the first to want to receive tourists. I would like that the complete world visit our cultural and natural heritage, to taste our gastronomy, to know our craft, to enjoy admiring our diverse landscapes, but also to know our large peasantry.

Cabanas de teitu de escoba in Natural Park of Somiedo

Cabanas de teitu de escoba in Natural Park of Somiedo

What I mean by this is that Asturias is suffering a serious abandon that is taking its conversion into a free outdoor ethnographic museum. A territory where any biotic, abiotic or cultural element has only used as a decorative element. We are forgetting our rural areas and their capacity to create employment and its importance in the maintainance of the biodiversity. If rural areas are populated, the landscapes will also be full of life, and someone will care for them.

Panera falling down

Panera falling down

There are many details that I would like to talk, but the first thing that I want is to emphasize conversations with my grandmother, my mentor. Dialogues next to the coal stove, while we were watching the mountain range of Aramo and Biosphere Reserve of Ubiñas-La Mesa with a white mist on their summits. Chestnuts and cereals were the core of the issues in our conversations, “because chestnuts and cereals help to my family to survive in times of need”, said my grandmother,”and now nobody wants to know anything about the countryside and small villages are dying”, she continued. Currently, the chestnut trees are sick and the hazelnut trees are drying up. Without a traditional forest management of these trees we will be left without hazelnuts and chestnuts. For example, in El Bierzo and Galicia have understood this. Before now, French people bought chestnuts to prepare the delicious marron glace. Nowadays, they buy the marron glace. Is not this a message of optimism? Also, if we take it to terms of conservation, the boundary of the agricultural plots have a great importance to maintaining the ecological balance and biodiversity.

Furthermore, cereals. Who doubts about the important culture of bread that existed or exists in Asturias? I do not know if I should speak in past or if I trust in the hope and to think that this culture has not died, yet. Corn, wheat, rye, spelt… I am from a zone where many years ago my family planted spelt, but this area is also the main mining area in Asturias, the Asturian central zone. The mining history almost manages to end with this native cereal, and when he was dying a company recovered it. But, what happen with the mills? Why not try to recover this ethnographic item? It would be wonderful to give them life, as they got us ourselves, and that is only reflected in the traditional songs which some people sing in small circles. We can create jobs, revitalize our rural areas and learning some things about our recent history. These elements not only serve to decorate, like an ethnographic museum, the path of the mountaineers who take a picture and forget them again. This elements could be alive again.

The rye is typical of the western of Asturias, with a better climate for its cultivation. It is very typical to find in bakeries “rye bread”, but it is not so common to see crops of rye. If you ask why, the answer is clear and simple “is not profitable”, so the flour is bought out of Asturias. Our mills are falling, and a source of income that would come from this traditional cultive, is wasted.

Mill

Mill

I could continue being critical talking about teitos and also its conversion in an Ethnographic Museum or our traditional Asturian houses falling along with granaries, among other, but I want to send an optimistic message. In our last post we talked about Outurelos Honey, a small company in Ibias, Asturias, that has the aim to recover the cortinos (a rural open-topped construction, oval, circular or sometimes rectangular, consisting of high walls for protecting hives and preventing any animals intruding (mainly bears), an forgotten etnographical element in the southwest area of Asturias, probably unique in the world. For me, it is lovely to see again these elements alive and it is emotive discover a young man who wants to stay and work in his little town and get an economic benefit from it.

Finally, the most important thing is that someone has managed to overcome the red tape of the ethnographic museum, and he has convinced to the security guard that the pieces are not dead and they had not been created to admire them. There is still solution in rural areas beyond the museum. Please do not put more barriers to rural entrepreneurship. Listen to local people.

Cortín abandonado en Parque Natural de Fuentes de Narcea, Degaña e Ibias

Cortín abandonado en Parque Natural de Fuentes de Narcea, Degaña e Ibias

Let’s save the countryside! #SOSCountryside