There is a crisis of the Andalusian olive groves. There is no doubt about it. This crisis is due to lower supports of the European Union (CAP), to the increase in the production costs and to the increase of the competitors in other countries with Mediterranean climate conditions.
However, Andalusian olive groves are in crisis due to the unsustainable management practices carried out for many decades. The absence of terraces in olive groves with a high slope, the tillage in the direction of the slope or the low proportion of olive groves allowing the growth of a plant cover of weeds are leading to a very high losses of soil and, therefore, some areas have not enough soil to produce a “good” harvest every year. For these reasons, bad harvests are more frequent. Thus, soil overexploitation and erosion become the two main factors threating the future of the Andalusian olive groves, specially in Eastern Andalusia.
(Images of a plant-covered olive grove, on the left side, and an olive grove with a bare soil. Image of the right side has been obtained from: http://www.andaluciaenruta.com)
The olive grove is the most important agroecosystem in Andalusia, due to its surface area (1.5 million hectares) and also to its importance on the regional economy. Nevertheless, it is important to remind that olive grove farming is not only an economic activity, but also it is a way of life, like in the case of other crops (vineyards, cereals, rice…), it is a way of life very linked to people living in rural areas. The olive grove is, therefore, a way of life…is part of our culture. The gastronomy, traditional parties, literature, legends…in many times they take place in an olive grove, or in the case of the gastronomy many dishes or desserts are made with olive oil or/and olive fruits, even they are also used in the traditional and old medicine used by grandparents and great grandparents some decades ago.
(Image of a recreation of a traditional olive oil press. Image obtained from: http://www.nuestroaceitedeoliva.com)
Unfortunately, in the cities the lifestyle is unconnected from the rural life, creating a bubble and keeping away the city from the influence of the rural areas, but nevertheless the city needs the products made in the field. Due to this isolation, people living in the cities do not realize what activities are carrying out in the cropping areas and, therefore, we do not know how important is to preserve the crops produced in these rural zones. For this reason, both, people living in the cities and living in rural zones we have to fight together in order to implant sustainable management practices in olive groves (in the case of farmers) and to be citizens consuming critical and responsibly, by buying only those products from a farm applying sustainable managements. Therefore, by collaborating together producers and consumers we could achieve to preserve Andalusian olive groves and, thus, avoid losing a very important part of our culture and our way of life.
José Luis Vicente Vicente