The history of agriculture in Spain is complex, and this is also reflected in related information systems . Following accession of the country to the European Economic Community in 1986 (preceding the EU), the policies and mechanisms for support underwent significant changes.
In 2005, to further improve the quality policies and regulations for the agriculture sector, the government started a regular land use / land cover (LULC) mapping program using aircraft. This data is subsequently processed further to produce a Sistema de Información Geográfica de Parcelas Agrícolas (Agricultural Plot Geographic Information System), or SIGPAC. This analysis details plot boundaries, usage types, and coverage of policies linked to relevant government datasets.
A key link is with SIGPAC and the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), providing access to reliable land-use maps to support applications to environmental protection, and participation in relevant subsidy schemes. Such data also gives valuable insight to other stakeholders. Initially developed for the agriculture sector, the system is also used in planning and commercial applications . However, access is not possible to farmers (or their partners) in a straightforward way.
As a publicly-funded resource, the cadastral and parcel maps are available on dedicated websites such as Visor. However, this remains separated from information systems and processes actually used by those managing the landscape - farmers and other landholders. In practice, the data is extracted and printed on paper for a landholder by their accountant or extension support agent in the tax process. Without this list, many insights on farm activity remain inaccessible to supply chains, or risk being out of date - leading to confusion and reduced confidence.
Without such information, the growing pressures for supply chain transparency in the EU are difficult to comply with - potentially limiting access to markets. Following integration of SIGPAC in the AlVelAl Landscape Network, all community members have access to this data. Parcels can be easily identified and registered to a farm, and (with the permission of farmers) can be immediately shared with supply chain partners and relevant institutions.
The connection improves accurate data on land tenure, usage types, and more. Successful integration has enabled faster onboarding of parcels to the system, connection with official maps of the government related to land cover type as well as economic / social / natural health.
In addition to parcel-specific informaion, the SIGPAC initiative also connects to openly available Very High Resolution aerial images. The quality of this data exceeds satellite imagery in terms of quality and affordability, and provides another useful tool for the community.
Outside of the AlVelAl team and connected Socio members, the system is used to streamline farmer engagement, and provides a way for businesses to develop / showcase products and services, as well as provide field-to-fork traceability. For example, food processors, eco-hotels and tour providers share the local achievements of AlVelAl with their own customers, and increasingly rely on it to collaborate and develop new projects.
In the recent Royal decree of the Spanish government regarding the next version of the Common Agricultural Policy (Política Agrícola Común), a number of significant changes are being make with regard to declarations of pasture and livestock intensity, as well as the types of agriculture being recorded. The primary goal is to monitor and control risk in situations of abandonment - a process leading to significant changes in Spanish landscapes.
Unfortunately, if farmers have adopted low-intensity agriculture or restoration policies, and this is not accurately communicated to relevant authorities there may be room for miscommunication and confusion. By linking directly with the SIGPAC system to ensure real-time, accurate information is available for all relevant stakeholders, potential for miscommunications is greatly reduced.
1 - Antonio Muñoz-Cañavate & Pedro Hípola (2010) Information Transfer in the Agricultural Sector in Spain, Journal of Agricultural & Food Information, 11:2, 123-142, DOI: 10.1080/10496501003682496
2 - Wikipedia Espanol. (2022). Link
3 - Ícaro Obeso Muñiz, Felipe Fernández García, Recent urban development in Gijón (Spain). Historic aerial photography as a tool for sustainability assessment of the process, Cities, Volume 67, 2017, 1-8, doi: 10.1016/j.cities.2017.04.009
4 - Ruiz-Varona, A. et al. (2022). Harmonization of land-cover data to assess agricultural land transformation patterns in the peri-urban Spanish Mediterranean Huertas. Journal of Land Use Science. doi: 10.1080/1747423X.2021.2022793