In August 2022, an area close Serriana Olive Oil suffered a devastating forest fire – and this is my translation of the report – from Spanish – on the effects of that fire and the efforts of the local cooperative.
Outside of Spain – this fire was reported widely because of the train that got caught in the Bejis / Viver forest fire.
Bejis Forest Fire
Counting the cost
“AN ACTIVE AND SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE IS THE BEST BARRIER AGAINST FOREST FIRES IN THE MID MOUNTAINS.”
The Cooperative of Viver estimates a loss of €716,229 of agricultural production among its members, caused by the Bejis forest fire, which burnt through 19,000 hectares of agricultural forest.
This calculation is based on the loss of production for the next three years until the affected trees are able to recuperate at least a minimum level of production. This means the loss of 40,000 kg of olives (or ~13,000 litres of olive oil) and 38,000 kg of almonds among other losses such as walnut trees, cherry trees, vines, apple trees and vegetables.
In total, 7,468 almond trees and 2,283 olive trees were burnt. These are spread across 175 fields and located in Viver and other nearby villages such as Toras, Bejis and Teresa.
The estimated loss includes €25,313 for the replacement of more than 20 km of irrigation lost to the fire.
It is a fact that a sustainable agricultural sector based in and around rural villages has both the ability to generate a fair income for local people as well as present a barrier to the spread of forest fires. This is thanks to a more diverse ecosystem which slows the fires whereas a mono culture accelerates fires.
The Coop of Viver shares land management methods among members and land owners to optimise cultivation whilst encouraging an agro-forest mosaic which has the ability to act as a break on forest fires as well as prevent fires in the first place.
With the knowledge of the importance of cultivating and maintaining the land, the Coop of Viver is dedicated to the project of a ‘dignified agriculture’, where the products of Viver and Alto Palancia receive a fair price for the farmers and generate sustainable jobs and commerce that result in the reinvestment in the local land and people.
The loss from the Bejis forest fire shows the importance of both the need to prevent future forest fires as well as the importance of a healthy agricultural sector to support mid mountain care.