Agro-ecosystem regeneration project

Location: Binġemma, Mġarr, Malta

Time frame: 2011 - present

 

Binġemma, a hamlet within the rural village of Mġarr (Malta), is best known for its lush valley, surrounding agricultural lands and panoramic views. Yet great areas of this locality feature abandoned agricultural fields, and while this is still much better than urban sprawl, land abandonment still leads to undesirable changes in biodiversity and ecosystems.

In the year 2000 two brothers, Charlie and Raymond, acquired a patch of land for the cultivation of olive trees. The area had been completely abandoned for many years, and the brothers took years to grow trees, shrubs and plants from scratch. Gradually, the place was transformed from a deserted patch of land to a biodiversity haven hosting a vast range of endemic and indigenous species. This place is today known as Tan-Nixxiegħa Olive Grove.

Merill has been collaborating closely with the family since 2011. A project such as this requires a great deal of hard labour and financial investment, so the farmers were motivated by means of different agritourism activities organised on the field. Rural tourism in the Maltese Islands is still in its infancy, however as from the onset, Merill set out to build a structure which allowed the agro-ecosystem to flourish (thanks to the farming family), while adapting leisure activities around it. Tourism should not be the main motivator in agriculture, but a supporting pillar. Should these activities, relating to leisure, overpower the importance of the agro-ecosystem, we would be at risk of losing the long-term sustainability of such areas.