We spoke to livestock farmer Pedro Manenti, who breeds Marismeña breed cattle in one of the most extensive wetlands of the Guadalquivir River, the Brazo del Este Natural Site (Seville). This wetland area, located between Doñana, the marshes and the Dehesa de Abajo lagoon, is particularly important for birdlife and, specifically, for the marbled teal, a species for which it is an important nesting area. For this reason, the LIFE Cerceta Pardilla project is carrying out actions to improve the habitat in this wetland, promoting the alliance and collaboration of people who live from the economic activities carried out in the area.
What is your activity in this emblematic wetland?
For the last two years, I have enjoyed a part of the pasture concession in the wetland, approximately 100 hectares, where I raise cattle in an ecological way. I breed marismeña cows, which I cross with Limousin breed stallions, to achieve a more meaty industrial cross.
The marismeña cow is a very rustic autochthonous breed, which is why it has been kept especially in these places that are very difficult for other types of cattle, despite being in danger of extinction. As we use selective management, the cattle contribute with their presence to keep the pasture wet and controlled. In addition, we move them from one area to another so that they do not deplete the resources and, at the same time, serve to control the growth of the reeds. If we didn’t have cattle, there would be reed beds, and with this we ensure that other species that are much less invasive than reeds have the capacity to regenerate.
How did the idea come about?
It was a coincidence. I have always raised cattle, more in the Almonte area (Huelva), and when I saw the opportunity to apply for concessions or exploitation, I bid for them and I kept them. From then on, the adventure began. When I arrived, the land was completely flooded and I had a lot of difficulties. Then, little by little, and through rational management of the animals, the different pastures and the times of the year, I managed to get everything to work well and I am happy. Now, when you offered me to be part of the project, I saw it as a very interesting opportunity because normally these places are perceived as unhealthy. The management of marshland has always been considered complicated, but marshland, like any other well-managed land, has a positive return.
Therefore, do you think that socio-economic uses are compatible with conservation?
Yes, absolutely. In fact, our relationship with the Administration, because of where we are and the emblematic nature of the land, is constant. We are constantly observed and that also gives us peace of mind. I see a very possible relationship between both factors.
How do you see the future of this wetland in particular and of the marbled teal?
With regard to the marbled teal, I think it will be very interesting to be able to replicate what we are already doing elsewhere, with the small changes we have made in the use, and to be able to manage the different water levels, which will allow us to know what the species prefers, especially in the breeding season. And, on the other hand, I think that this area is a little undervalued from a tourist point of view, not from an ecological point of view, which is a reality, but from a tourist point of view, as other areas have much more of a name. I believe that the Brazo del Este is an absolute paradise that is going to be an asset for the conservation of the marbled teal. The LIFE project will help to focus attention on this area, which will obviously have an impact in the short and medium term.