Ayuntamiento of San Mateo de Gállego

The Ayuntamiento of San Mateo of Gállego was constituted as a municipality in 1857 although the remains go back to at least 1118 when Alfonso I conquered it back from the Mores. It currently belongs to the province of Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. According to the 2004 census (INE), the municipality has a population of 2,381 inhabitants. With an area spanning close to 72 km2, the density of the population is very low. Young people tend to work in nearby Zaragoza (25 km south of San Mateo) and many young people also moved there over the past years. The altitude of the land is on average some 300m above sea level, the village itself lies on a central hill surrounded by agricultural land. The weather conditions vary from moderate to cold and rainy in the winter (especially with the strong winds coming from the northern Pyrenees) and extreme heat and draught in the summer.

Most of the area consists of arable land owned by farmers, even though crops do not provide for a decent living unless the land is heavily irrigated which comes at a high cost. The number of (small) farmers is decreasing rapidly and only large scale farmers could possibly survive, even though returns per hectare have fallen over the last twenty years due mainly to draught and land erosion. Large tracts of land have even been abandoned.

The Municipality owns between 400 to 500 hectares that are not used at this moment. There is not a lot of funding available to reforest the area, and trials in previous years had very low survival rates for the trees planted (in some cases up to 70% of trees planted did not survive its first summer). The aim of this reforestation project is to create knowledge about the waterbox concept and prove it works in such an extreme climate. The ultimate goal is to create sustainable employment for the local people, and attract local tourism. Finally, the municipality hopes to connect this initiative with the planned Technology Center on Agrofood that will be finished in 2010. By planting certain economic tree species (fruit trees, pistachio and maybe almonds), the involvement of this local center and its affiliated food companies could turn them into enthusiastic ambassadors of the waterbox if it is to show the expected results.

At the moment an important land exchange program is going on, with the objective to rationalise parcels and create more advantages of scale. The exact location of the Life+ reforestation project still has to be decided, but in any case the preference of the municipality would be that at least some areas that separate these newly designed fields were reforested as natural separation barriers.