The kick-off meeting of the Catalan Living Lab
Llobregat Agricultural Park
On April 20, 2023, the COEVOLVERS Living Lab kicked off in Catalonia. This Living Lab focuses on the reduction of fire risk through the promotion of grazing strategic areas in the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) of the Baix Llobregat territory and Collserola mountain. A meeting gathering key stakeholders took place at the offices of the Llobregat Agricultural Park located at the Can Comas farmhouse, within the metropolitan area of Barcelona.
The eleven participants included shepherds, environmental technicians from local councils, members of the regional agriculture administration, farm owners, and experts in controlled grazing. Although the number of attendees was slightly lower than expected (due to the challenge of aligning the working hours of public sector employees with those of the shepherds and farmers), each main party involved in the activity in focus was represented.
The meeting started with a presentation by CTFC researchers, providing insights into the current fire risk situation, the economic aspects of extensive grazing in Catalonia, and its role in fire prevention. The researchers also introduced to the participants the notion of “Nature-Based Solutions” and its relevance to the COEVOLVERS project.
The initial presentation, which sparked engaging discussions and inquiries, was followed by a group discussion on topics around controlled grazing related to our Living Lab. This dialogue was highly successful, allowing us to identify common ground and areas of disagreement among the different stakeholders, as well as to pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of boosting controlled grazing in Baix Llobregat and Collserola.
Several challenges emerged that need to be taken into consideration during the implementation of our Living Lab. These challenges include the high population density of the Barcelona metropolitan area, which may lead to conflicts with inhabitants and outdoor users of the grazing spaces, as well as to difficulties in land access rights due to speculation. The excessive bureaucracy encountered by shepherds also poses a significant hurdle. Additionally, town council members in areas where controlled grazing has already been implemented expressed uncertainties in establishing a fair payment system for this fuel reduction effort.
The kick-off meeting thus served to identify future areas where to focus applied research in the next project months, which instilled researchers with energy.