Las Hurdes

How do the Hurdanos prepare the land to grow their crops?
First they choose a spot close to the riverbank.
Then they cut down the rockrose and heather.
Their tools are rudimentary: pickaxe and shovel.
These are the only tools they have.
The plough is almost unknown.
Once the plot has been cleared...
...they put up stone walls, without mortar.
The wall will protect the plot from winter floods.
One the wall is up, they have to look for...
...fertile soil in the hills.
They put it in sacks and carry them through the brambles to their plots.
This usually takes several weeks.
A thin layer of fertile soil now covers the plots.
The first year sees an abundant harvest, but then the soil is exhausted.
There's no nitrogen and it turns sterile.
All the plots in Las Hurdes are thin bands...
...beside a river.
Winter storms can destroy the work of a whole year.
A characteristic winding river in Las Hurdes...
...with tiny plots beside it.
With no money or domestic animals...
....the Hurdanos have no fertiliser.
They have to go up into the hills to look for it.