Study cases (I): Brañas de Laíño

Located on the bank of the River Ulla, near its mouth into the Arousa estuary , the Brañas de Laíño (Dodro) represents one of the largest wetlands in Galicia. Historically its use was communal, although at present they are not officially recognized as a communal space, as is the case of the forests of Baroña or Froxán, nor are they currently managed by the local population.

The recent interventions that have been carried out in this place have been promoted based on environmental concerns and are coordinated by the state administration.

Brañas de Laíño is an area of special environmental value, habitat of numerous birdlife, some of which are under conservation or even threatened. This has led to the area being designated as a LIC (Lugar de Interés Comunitario, Place of Community Interest) and to be worthy of protection by the Natura 2000 Network, currently a ZEC (Zona de Especial Conservación, Special Conservation Area). With regard to its management and ownership, after the “plot concentration” promoted by the local residents, it was, years later, affected by the Ley de Costas, State Coastal Law; a process of restriction of uses and appropriation whose conflict and consequences will have to be gauged. These recent interventions, which have been promoted based on environmental concerns, are coordinated by the state administration. However, historically, the brañas were something quite different.

It is not by chance that two of the first dairy cooperatives in Galicia were founded in Laíño (1932); nor is it a coincidence that Nestlé was located opposite (1933); and that the export of livestock, such as fattened oxen, has been so important since the nineteenth century.

Essential for the functioning of the agroecosystem in the parishes of Laíño (San Xoán and San Xulián) and Dodro (Santa María), the brañas were divided into two large areas. The area closest to the villages was the so-called campías, whose use – for example, for the planting of cereals – was linked to each house, while the area closest to the river was the braña itself, which was managed collectively and was recognized for the great value of its grass, which was optimal for raising livestock. It is not by chance that two of the first dairy cooperatives in Galicia were founded in Laíño (1932); nor is it a coincidence that Nestlé was located opposite (1933); and that the export of livestock, such as fattened oxen, has been so important since the nineteenth century. However, in spite of all this, today the situation of the brañas can be summarised in a few very different words: abandonment and chaos.

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