Arborea Producers Cooperative, daily seeking sustainability

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"The Segni agrarian reform started off a little late here in Arborea. The Sardinian Reclamation Society (SBS) wouldn’t cede the lands that in the fascist period had allowed it to be celebrated as one of the most productive in the whole nation. The redistribution, they objected, could not concern such an excellence. The sharecroppers rebelled, there was some uproar. Ministers of the new republic came to placate their spirits. It was the Sardinia Region that eventually bought the SBS shares, guaranteeing the purchase to the sharecroppers. Fifty six-monthly installments. The need to keep supply and demand together, to avoid fragmentation, arose. Thus the Arborea Producers Cooperative was born on 1 January 1955. Among the first thirteen signatories was my grandfather and my namesake, Giovanni Sardo”.

The cooperative now lives in the large building built a few steps from Strada 14 Ovest, one of the great arteries crossing the reclamation area. The associates are now over 250, and one hundred of them come from all over Sardinia. An enlargement of the productive community wanted by Giovanni Sardo, positive that parochialism is not useful in the contemporary world. Breeders and farmers benefit from a long list of services: a warehouse with ten thousand items, tax and technical advice. "We do not abandon anyone who is in difficulty. Mutuality is a founding principle of the cooperative" says the president.

"If we imagine the future, we see agriculture as one thing only with environment protection. We are sorry to be often perceived as cynical exploiters of natural resources. Actually we are the first to demand the preservation of the ecosystem that guarantees our wealth. We lay on sandy, voracious soils. Water gets swallowed rapidly. Climate change has been affecting production for twenty years now. We pass from winter to summer with very short intermediate seasons. We are afraid of floods and droughts, so we try to prepare ourselves for the future", explains Sardo.

Thanks to sprinkling and drip irrigation, the use of water resources has been reduced, especially in the horticultural sector. In addition to the energy savings, these allow the plants to get sick with less frequency, causing a drastic decrease in the use of pesticides. Nine years ago, Arborea has been registered as a vulnerable nitrate zone. "We have many nitrates in a limited area. In the first years the results of a more careful management of the waste made us hope for success. Then we witnessed a turnaround. It is clear that someone does not respect the limits imposed by the agronomic utilization plan, for this reason we are working to a protocol that binds everyone", announces the president.

Sardo implies not only new ethical standards, but a concrete monitoring system that the cooperative is developing thanks to the support of Maristanis and the collaboration of the University of Sassari and a software house in Cagliari. "Thanks to the satellite images granted by the European Space Agency we want to create a survey method that can accurately indicate the quantity of water, humidity and biomass present in the fields. We articulate infrared technology with the analyses conducted on the ground” explains Lino Tammaro, the cooperative’s agronomist. The changing map of all the affiliated companies will then become a file in which every member will have to insert all his daily actions: processing, fertilization, disposal of waste, pesticide treatments. A stable register, a country notebook capable of improving efficiency and sustainability.

The cooperative is working on several initiatives focused on sustainability, that the Maristanis project supports in the experiments concerning the methods of abatement of the use of chemical pesticides used near wetlands. Soon, then, a comparative analysis will be carried out on two groups of ten calves each, of which only one fed with spirulina, a cyanobacterium that can improve the animals’ wellbeing and guarantee consumers a healthier product. Or the PRISMA project, which would like to use slaughter waste to obtain, thanks to earthworm colonies, a synthetic peat that is useful as a soil improver or fertilizer. But also, thanks to a study conducted once again with the University of Sassari, to eliminate synthetic products from the fertilization of the island's pastures. "Not because-Tammaro states - it is part of a biological struggle, but in order to offer a sustainable product within the ‘born and bred’ project in Sardinia. We do not think of organic products, but a low impact on the environment that has housed the cooperative for many years, and that we must preserve in future conditions that are announced by every analysis as difficult”.