The field of work: O Barbanza

As usual, the physical conditions (geomorphological, topography, sunlight, etc.) determined the location of the communities throughout history, directly related to the agricultural capacities of each space and, consequently, to agricultural management. In the Barbanza, as in all of Atlantic Galicia, the occupation of the territory intensified in the eighteenth century, the result of the agrarian revolution that involved the incorporation of American plants and intense rotations. This use of the territory has lasted until the present day, with a notable increase in housing and industry, but the settlement in the population centres largely corresponds to the maximum occupation known for more than 200 years.

The area in which the Ecosocial Lab project is being developed is the Barbanza, a peninsula located between the Noia and Arousa rías (estuaries), a territory with a considerable population density and with a deep anthropization. This well-defined region of Galicia is characterized by an extensive and ancient population dissemination, as well as by the presence of small and medium sized towns, of different origins and evolution, but all of them with a port character. The villages coexist with hamlets in an interrelationship that responds to historical dynamics and uses of the territory, which have been distorted in the last six decades by state intervention policies that aimed to order and develop it.

The Atlantic Ocean surrounds this 30 km long peninsula, up to the estuaries of the rivers Tambre and Ulla. In the center rises the Barbanza mountain range, made up of granite and schist which, at 5 km in width and 15 km in length reaches an altitude of over 600 meters. Significant elevations and a singular peneplain that reflect an old erosion surface “a perfect horst united by faults where the surface of eogenic flattening is preserved, sprinkled with residual reliefs”, according to Augusto Pérez Alberti. Tectonics has affected lithology since the Precambrian period, a billion years ago, when materials began to be deposited which, added to the combined morphogenetic action of the climatic succession to the current oceanic climate and the more recent human action, defines the morphology and relief of this territory. Due to its NE-SW layout, the mountain range is configured as a barrier to the winds coming from the sea and so, depending on its orientation, its slopes present different microclimatic conditions.

All these physical and climatic conditions have favoured the consolidation of diverse ecosystems in which the communities have settled in an intense way since the Bronze Age, as evidenced by the numerous archaeological remains found in the area that take us back to the origins of the Neolithic period, to sedentarism and agriculture seven thousand years ago.

As we saw in previous articles, today a large area of the Barbanza (36%), larger than the Galician average (22%), is managed jointly by local communities (communal ownership) from which we can draw many lessons and find opportunities for the revival of rural areas. The Barbanza, and the rest of the country, seen through the eyes of a contemporary agrarian historian “is a territory dominated by rural and agrarian abandonment: by the abandonment of the rural environment and the disintegration of the territory”. Seen from the point of view of a peasant of a certain age, with experience and memory of farming, a farmer by trade or by origin, “it is a wasted territory”. Hence the need to mobilize wills to recompose this situation.

Today a large area of the Barbanza (36%), larger than the Galician average (22%), is managed jointly by local communities (communal ownership) from which we can draw many lessons and find opportunities for the revival of rural areas.

Agrarian communities have historically managed their territories taking advantage of natural resources in an intense but sustainable and organic way. This project aims to relate that capacity with the needs of a sustainable future in the current situation of environmental awareness. To address this, we use case studies with a methodology that seeks a dialogue of knowledge. Developing the investigation requires the in-depth study of the diversity of cases following the methods of social and agrarian history and agro-ecology. We study human groups that manage different territories over time to produce, in a process of co-evolution with nature. It is necessary to focus the process with the microscope of history, to know the diversity, the temporal depth and the capacity of change and adaptation of these management practices, as well as the knowledge produced by the community in its long term relationship with the territory (management) and with its external environment (market, emigration).

Agrarian communities have historically managed their territories taking advantage of natural resources in an intense but sustainable and organic way. This project aims to relate that capacity with the needs of a sustainable future in the current situation of environmental awareness.

With the intention of having a diversity of cases, we have selected three very different areas: the Brañas de Laíño, the communal forest of Froxán and the community of Baroña, which includes the communal forests of Barbanza, Enxa, Xián, Dordo, Costa de Abaixo and O Sobrado.

(English subtitles available through the video settings)

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