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Knowing the millenary technique of dry stone construction

Declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, this technique is a great link between the geological, biological and cultural aspects of our landscape.

With the aim of promoting the millenary technique of dry stone construction, AlVelAl has organised a training workshop in Sierro (Almería). Due to its ancestral origin, this technique is one of the first human approaches to construction through stone.

The workshop was given by Isidoro Pérez, a technician from the company Natures, who is dedicated to geology and environmental education, and who has a lot of experience in organising dry stone construction workshops in the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park. In which the participants have had the opportunity to learn about this centuries-old construction process that is present all over the world, adapting to each place, taking advantage of local raw materials and adapting the work to the environment.

"One of the characteristics of this construction process is the absence of mortar, consists in overlay stones on top of each other in a locked position (one stone pressing on two)," explains Isidoro. Another characteristics is its easy maintenance, is usually partially rebuilt, in addition to the qualities in terms of stability and robustness that they present.

This technique, in dry stone, was declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2018, after a total of eight countries submitted their candidacy: Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Slovenia and Switzerland, in addition to Spain. A mention that, according to Pérez, "give the value that deserves this technique, comes from our ancestors and we must not allow to be extinguished because of all the historical, cultural and environmental legacy that mean".

Dry stone walls also play an important role in the prevention of landslides, floods and avalanches, as well as in the fight against erosion and desertification; actions that are part of AlVelAl's 's philosophy, work for the restoration of the soil and landscape of our territory.

Investigating the technique

The workshop consisted of an initial theoretical part that contains the importance of this type of construction. According to the expert from Natures, "in some way any dry stone construction is a great link between the geological, the biological, and the cultural aspect, a good representative of what would be the union of these three dimensions".

After understanding its history and value, the participants have learned all the aspects related to the application of this technique such as the arrangement of the stones, methods of working, tools to use and advices; among others. Aspects that matter in the selection of stones, according to their morphology and the needs of the construction, the expert explained that "we must take into account their slope and the "good side" that is left out, trying to look for an esthetic result in the wall. Also dedicate efforts in balancing each piece during the construction process, combining pieces of different sizes guided by "the boss", is the thread that serves as a guide to ensure that the stones are aligned and the construction is straight. "After placing the larger stones it is essential to cover the holes with smaller stones and with earth, until everything is compact".

After a review of the theoretical part, the participants were able to live the experience of dry stone construction by restoring one of these walls in the town of Sierro; supervised at all times by the Natures technician.

A workshop with participation limitations to guarantee security for the COVID-19; and which was attended by around twenty participants from the five regions of the AlVelAl territory. They enjoyed a day of cooperation and enthusiasm, combining learning, good company and exchange of knowledge, as old as the stone walls that still remain in our landscape. Destination AlVelAl This dry stone construction workshop is part of the 'Destination AlVelAl' project that we are carrying out in collaboration with TUI Care Foundation. This workshop has been made possible thanks to the collaboration of the Sierro Town Hall and the participation of its mayor, Adrián de Miguel.

Destination AlVelAl is a project with a holistic approach that unites regenerative agriculture, local gastronomy and ecotourism. "The aim is to connect the agri-food sector of the AlVelAl territory with the tourist centres on the Spanish east coast through short marketing channels that generate higher income for farmers and stockbreeders", explained Dietmar Roth, coordinator of the project. "To this end, we are promoting ecological and regenerative agriculture through theoretical and practical workshops to transmit knowledge about regenerative agriculture, gastronomy, tourism and marketing to increase the added value of our products".

In this sense, Destination AlVelAl is working on three aspects: the marketing of organic and regenerative agriculture products for soil and landscape, the promotion and visibility of local products in the region's restaurants and responsible tourism interested in learning about a sustainable and environmentally friendly way of producing.

To this end, organic and regenerative agriculture is promoted through technical advice and theoretical and practical agricultural and gastronomic workshops, restaurants are advised on the use of local produce, adding value to dishes and producers through their visibility; in short, supporting the local economy. In the same way, visits by small groups of tourists from TUI are being organized, interested in sustainability and the environment, who visit regenerative agriculture farms to get to know this production system.

This project aims to generate a positive impact on the AlVelAl territory through its main economic sectors.

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