Málaga raisins and Añana salt become part of the Global Agricultural Heritage

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Málaga raisins and Añana salt become part of the Global Agricultural Heritage

Añana Salt Valley, in Álava, one of FAO’s Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems. Photo: EFE. (EFE)
Añana Salt Valley, in Álava, one of FAO’s Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems. Photo: EFE. (EFE)

The Málaga raisin and Añana salt production systems have been designated as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). They are the first GIAHS sites recognised in Europe.

The two traditional agricultural systems in Spain were officially selected by the GIAHS Scientific Advisory Group for their role in the protection of sustainability, food security, livelihoods and traditional culture. They have joined the full list of GIAHS around the world (19 countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Near East and North Africa).

GIAHS have resulted not only in outstanding landscapes, maintenance and adaptation of globally significant agricultural biodiversity, indigenous knowledge systems and resilient ecosystems, but also food and livelihood security for millions of poor and small farmers in a sustainable manner.

Raisins from Axarquía

The raisin production system in Axarquía, Málaga, dates back to Phoenician times. It consists of labour-intensive farming techniques passed down over generations. Given the very steep slopes where production occurs, mechanisation is not possible, obligating farmers to use manual labour and mules in the same environmentally-friendly way they did in ancient times.

The most singular technique used is natural drying. The grapes are laid to dry in the sun without chemicals, so the procedure requires nothing but the action of nature.

Salt from Añana

Salt production in Valle Salado (Salt Valley) in Añana (about 30 kilometres from Vitoria-Gasteiz) is possible thanks to unique springs running up through a gigantic underground vault of the mineral, a remnant of a sea that disappeared millions of years ago.

The ancient techniques used in Salt Valley require a complex storage and distribution system, composed of hundreds of pinewood channels that bring the brine to all corners of the place, by gravity. Essential to the valley’s functioning is the old communal distribution system, as well as its unusual adaptation to the physical environment, which translates into the succession of stepped terraces built by humans with dry stone, wood and clay and in the salt crystallization ponds. Salt production is based on the evaporation of the water contained in the brine by natural means. Salt has contributed and still contributes to securing the livelihood of the community.