Author: Katharine - Director & Bestagno Grove Owner
Water is a precious resource. I have known this for sixty years, since childhood growing up in Shropshire, in the heart of the British countryside. Our water was hand pumped from a small underground water source, which was, in turn, fed by one of the many underground streams that criss-crossed our land. We were taught to be economical, in case the water 'ran low'.
In time, the 'mains' supply arrived in the village and all my thoughts of streams drying up were forgotten. Forgotten indeed right up until fifteen years ago when we found our olive farm in Bestagno, Liguria and decided to throw it all in and move to the wilds of the Italian countryside.
As I engaged with the natural world once again, re-aware of the seasons' natural rhythms, I started to think about the viability of life in this rugged and remote landscape without that precious commodity, water.
My mother was a real country woman. She had talked about climate change and the impact of intensive farming on soil, water, other species and the environment all her life. As early as the 1970's she would berate local farmers as they sprayed their crops (and anything else they happened to fly over) with chemical pesticides and fertilisers.
As we developed our Italian land and garden, we invested in our borehole, drawing the water from the source under our land. Nudo's Sicilian farmers, their land being much further south, have been used to dry summers for generations, their aquifers and wells never being replaced by mains water or simply blocked up as the wells are further north. Seeing this, we felt we should be prepared for a hotter future where water was less plentiful.
At the time I was somewhat ridiculed by our neighbours, who pointed out the regular and plentiful seasonal rainfall and the multitude of streams running all year through our valley down to the Impero River. They had a point. Even ten years ago, plenty of water to be had and even at the height of a hot summer, water flowed in our valley.
But no longer. Across Southern Europe, there are serious water shortages impacting agriculture and more recently private gardens and drinking water. The Impero River no longer flows all of the year, and its tributaries are dry. People are once again looking to pump water from under their land and local mayors are reopening ancient wells that served remote communities before the mains was installed. Luckily our water source still fills during the year providing sufficient water for our garden and crops. But the man-made reservoirs dotted around the groves, their water traditionally used to combat summer wildfires are dry. Wildfires are doused with seawater.
When the rain comes in Southern Europe, it is often torrential, like a cyclone, flooding homes in towns and cities and wreaking havoc in the countryside.
Southern Europe, like many places in the world, is facing a crisis of water scarcity and drought alongside historic floods and storm events.
If ever there was a time to support farmers who work holistically it is now. The status quo or 'sustainable' is no longer enough. The natural world needs to be regenerated and healed; its rhythms and systems kick-started again.
Nudo's olive farmers all work regeneratively. They do not suck immense quantities of water for the irrigation of industrial-sized farms from the land, causing drought elsewhere and soil erosion on their land, as many large commercial producers do. They work in a measured way, putting back more than they take, mindful of the future fertility of their soil.