Organic agriculture by Ascensión Robayna

Ascensión Robayna cultivates the land of Lanzarote with the aim of protecting the unique agrarian ecosystems of this volcanic island that maintains its organic heart. With her hands, she works the land in a traditional but unconventional way, with great passion and romanticism. Responding to the care of the land with the very resources it offers is key to his work: "Agriculture must be organic or not at all".

Ascensión Robayna: "Agriculture must be organic or not be".

Ascensión Vicenta Robayna Elvira was born in Montaña Blanca, a small village in Lanzarote located between mountains, from where you can see the sea. An economist by profession, she is passionate about the fine arts: "I feel very fortunate to be able to appreciate beauty in the broadest sense of the word". She remembers her childhood with great affection and is very grateful to have been born and raised on an island like Lanzarote: "It is an island made to human measure, with a beauty that is both moving and vulnerable at the same time. This has always motivated in me the desire to protect and save it".

He decided to go into agriculture because he firmly believes that the noble task of producing food must be compatible with the conservation of the ecosystems where this activity is carried out: "We farmers are obliged to provide ecosystem services to society".

"When you are a rural girl, the nature around you is still your home. You must take care of it so that it continues to fulfill the functions of shelter, protection or improvement of the quality of life of its inhabitants", explains the farmer. She also affirms that she learned to enjoy the beauty of a sober nature from her mother's hand: "We walked the paths and trails that took us to the vineyards of Masdache or to the fertile meadows nearby. The seasons followed one after the other, discovering colors, aromas, flavors, the music of this land and its touch".

Organic farming in Lanzarote

Ascensión Robayna is part, along with several partners, of Ecoagro San Bartolomé, a small company dedicated primarily to the recovery of old vines and their cultivation in an organic way, with the quality seal of Certified Organic Agriculture.

The farmer explains that Ecoagro San Bartolomé arises from the idea of wanting to develop an own agricultural project through which to care for the various ecosystems of the island: "Organic farming promotes soil conservation, can increase their fertility and biodiversity of these ecosystems.

They decided to start with the recovery of old vines because it was an activity that was already familiar to them and, as we have mentioned, Ascensión Robayna grew up in a family of farmers: "I grew up among vines and time was measured by the harvests, just like now". Nowadays , they work different types of crops from vineyards in holes to legumes or sweet potatoes. "Vines have always been planted on the perimeter of the farms, leaving space in the center to grow other food crops. The diversification of crops on the same farm increases biodiversity and enriches these agricultural ecosystems".

Ascensión Robayna: "I grew up among vines and time was measured by the harvests, just like now".

For Ascensión Robayna, attending to biodiversity and the needs of the soil is essential to maintain a balance between land and crops. "Agricultural activity must help nature to follow its course," she explains, adding that different crops in the same space help to maintain this balance by avoiding monocultures. Of course, maintaining fertile soils is necessary for the health of the different ecosystems and organic farming allows different plant and animal species to coexist as a whole.

The farmer also collaborates with the Sociedad Agraria de Transformación (SAT) El Jable, a collective project, in the form of a cooperative, which seeks to cultivate and conserve dry farming ecosystems in Lanzarote. With this type of project, Lanzarote seeks to defend its most traditional form of agriculture and keep its cultural identity alive. "The management of the commons requires cooperation between farmers. This has been a pending subject on the island that we have tried to reverse through the development of the SAT El Jable," he says. 

In Lanzarote, agroecological foods are grown in unique heritage systems, in volcanic and jable soils, providing the products with unique conditions and characteristics. Strict dry farming on an island with an average annual rainfall of less than 150 liters is a factor that favors the quality of the food produced by the collective project of the SAT El Jable.

Ascensión Robayna: "This activity cannot be part of the problem, it must be part of the solution".

"Practicing organic farming that respects health, in the broadest sense of the word, there are no major obstacles," explains Ascensión Robayna when asked if there is any difficulty in developing this type of agriculture. "This activity cannot be part of the problem, it must be part of the solution. We are obliged to try to alleviate the perverse effects of the Anthropocene on the ecosystems we inhabit." However, climate change is also a major challenge for humanity: "We contribute to alleviate its perverse effects by putting into practice two fundamental principles: agroecology and food sovereignty".

For her part, the farmer does not believe that enough is being done to promote this type of agriculture, which could function as a perfect tourist attraction: "We must find sensitive tourists, who know how to appreciate these foods, the land and the people who grow them," she says and explains that new policies are needed to apply conditionality to the consumption of these foods. "It is time to take action and this means knowing the agricultural ecosystems, socially, economically, culturally and environmentally, where we grow these agroecological foods and acquire them," he adds.

Ascensión Robayna is clear: "To be able to think about tomorrow, the agriculture of today must be ecological or we will have no future".

Paula Vera

Photos: @arobayna


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