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article imagePhoto Essay: Discovering Lanzarote's volcanic farming techniques Special

By Lesley Lanir     Sep 14, 2013 in Travel
Arrecife - On the Canary Island of Lanzarote, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the visitor can admire the ways the people of this unusual volcanic island have adapted their farming techniques to cope with an unforgiving yet spectacular environment.
A quarter of Lanzarote’s agricultural land was destroyed in the last series of volcanic eruptions lasting from September 1730 until April 1736 and occurring again in 1824.
The lava flows spread over 200 square kilometres of land. They were so extensive they changed Lanzarote’s coastline and extended the island's northern boundaries.
The islanders, who were not great fisherman relied mainly on their agricultural skills, managed to adapt their farming techniques to their new environment and used the volcanic ashes and rock to their advantage in agriculture and building.
Farming in lava fields  building walls out of volcanic rock. Lanzarote  Canary Islands  Spain.
Farming in lava fields, building walls out of volcanic rock. Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain.
Walls built of volcanic rock protect fields. Lanzarote  Canary Islands  Spain.
Walls built of volcanic rock protect fields. Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain.
Even today, large expanses of solid lava still cover many areas that were once fertile farming lands.
Lava fields. Lanzarote  Canary Islands  Spain.
Lava fields. Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain.
However, in many places where the terrain and weather allows, the diligent islanders built man-made pits, and filled them with volcanic cinder.
Farming in lava fields  farmers built pits. La Geria  Lanzarote  Canary Islands  Spain.
Farming in lava fields, farmers built pits. La Geria, Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain.
Special Permission from Curro Matilla
The pits contain one or two plants and often appear purposely designed to resemble perfect works of art.
Farming in lava fields   pits with grape vines. La Geria  Lanzarote  Canary Islands  Spain.
Farming in lava fields, pits with grape vines. La Geria, Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain.
Special Permission from Dolmancé De Sade
The farmers also surround their plants with long stretches of wind-breaker walls built from lumps of lava and volcanic rock to protect their crops from Lanzarote’s strong winds.
Farming in lava fields. Lanzarote  Canary Islands  Spain.
Farming in lava fields. Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain.
The volcanic cinder works well for the farmers in Lanzarote because it naturally conserves humidity, an important attribute seeing as this arid island's overall low altitude does not allow it to benefit from the humidity of the north-easterly trade winds. The result being that Lanzarote has a low annual rainfall of between 115 – 150 mm per year.
Growing vines in volcanic ash. Lanzarote  Canary Islands  Spain.
Growing vines in volcanic ash. Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain.
The crops grown most prolifically are grapes since Lanzarote has a large and well-established wine industry - said to be the oldest not only in the Canary Islands but also in Spain. Needless to say, there are numerous wineries open to visitors and a wide selection of wines to sample.
Read and see more about Lanzarote’s cuisine, attractions and volcanic landscapes.
More about lanzarote, Canary islands, Volcanoes, Farming, Agriculture
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