There may not be an obvious link between the fans of the world’s biggest boy band and a little-known permaculture farm in Spain.
But when One in an Army, the charity arm of the fanbase of K-Pop supergroup BTS, got in contact with Danyadara, a small farm in Spain’s Andalusia region, director Vidya Heisel jumped on the opportunity.
Not only did it kickstart their fundraising to build a lake, but it was a chance to raise awareness of water as one of the most drastic and severe effects of climate change, likely to change where and how we can produce food in the future.
“I got contacted by a representative of the fan club of BTS. They are huge actually, and seem really young. Because there are so many of them, they had this idea they could raise money every month for a different charity,” said Heisel.
“Of course I was really happy. What we have been doing so far, which is planting thousands of trees and bushes, that’s having a huge effect. But having a place to actually capture the water and guide the run off is going to be a huge help.”
Danyadara is surrounded by intensive monoculture farming, much like the rest of southern Spain. Principle crops include sunflowers, for oil, maize and wheat, but the soil has been decimated by years of monoculture, plus worsening droughts.
A fifth of Spain is now desert and 74 per cent of the remaining land is at high risk for desertification in the coming few years.
“Even since I’ve been here, which is 10 years, I’ve noticed less and less rain every year. The amount of rain that we’re getting is decreasing. For example, this past winter we had severe drought. I think we had one week of rain over Christmas,” said Heisel, who said it has not been enough to increase the water table and that lakes and reservoirs did not recover their levels.
“We’re definitely experiencing drought. A lot of it has to do with the fact there’s no forest here really. They’re doing monoculture farming here, all around us. They’re mostly growing sunflowers or wheat. If you look at the quality of soil around us it’s really bad. It’s really already partially desert; it’s white and it’s got a very sandy quality.”
Heisel said Danyadara has been focused on regenerating the land, including planting 8,000 trees and ensuring the soil is never bare.
“Andalusia provides a lot of vegetables for most of Europe. And it’s quite unfortunate that industrial farming is really what most people are doing. It’s really bad.
“They’re growing things that need a lot of water, which is a crazy thing to do in this kind of climate,” she said. “This is the hottest area of Spain – there are five months of the year when we absolutely don’t have rain.
“The only thing that really makes sense is try to fix the ecosystem. The reason I started doing permaculture here was because I found out the best way of increasing the water table is to regenerate the ecosystem, and have trees and eventually that will create a microclimate.”
A tweet from One in an Army said the group was fundraising to mark BTS’ 9th anniversary for projects in soil restoration, food sovereignty and permaculture.
“#BTS taught us to be kind, so what better gift can we give them than to do good in their name?” the group wrote, when launching its fundraising arm.
Danyadara’s fundraiser has now raised almost €8,000, including 1,500 through the One in an Army appeal, to help build a lake and continue its work in land regeneration. It currently supplies its vegetables to sister project and yoga retreat Suryalila, as well as hosting permaculture design courses.
“One of the most important things for me is education, because I think that’s what’s really lacking,” added Heisel. “One thing you have to prove is that farming in a different way is economically viable.”