From the ashes

I don’t mind admitting that my first thought was arson, that the fire had been started deliberately by those with vested interests

Jennie Rhodes
JENNIE RHODES

Driving down the mountain from Frigiliana on Sunday afternoon after a weekend away in a ‘casa rural’, we could see smoke billowing from somewhere east of Nerja. There was an alarming amount of smoke and the strong wind was blowing it for miles. It didn’t look good.

When I got home, I read that the fire we’d seen was coming from the Vega de Maro. My first thought was for the people I know who rent land there: the international collective of farmers who run BAM (Bio Agricultura Maro); those who have smallholdings for their own personal use; and of course the families whose ancestors have farmed the land for generations.

I don’t mind admitting that my first thought was arson, that the fire had been started deliberately by those with vested interests in the golf course and hotel plans for the area. I’m sure I am not the only person to have thought that. In fact my partner also said exactly the same thing. What a pair of fatalists we are.

However, we were soon to learn that it had been an accident - a farmer who didn’t think the fire would spread so quickly, on a windy day during a drought. Hey ho. It does all seem to point to a terrible accident.

Yet the fatalist in me just won’t go away. One of the Spanish farmers was quoted in this newspaper saying, “You could see this coming; there are a lot of people living on the Larios land and they let them do anything they like.”

It feels to me that the fire could feed straight into the hands of the developers and give them the perfect excuse to get going on the project to build a golf course, hotels and houses on the land. I, as well as others I have spoken to, fear the worst.

But many of the foreign people I know living in the Axarquía live here because it’s not full of golf courses and luxury resorts. We live here because we like the untouched stretches of coastline and the mountains. If we’d wanted kilometres of concrete, golf courses and luxury resorts, we’d have moved to the other side of Malaga, we say!

There seems to be no end of plans for golf courses, from Chilches, to Torrox and Maro, with the existing Baviera Golf struggling to survive.

While I believe that the Axarquía’s heavy reliance on its water-draining, subtropical fruit industry is entirely unsustainable, I sincerely hope that from the ashes of this devastating fire comes a realisation of the importance of agriculture and nature to those who live here, not a desire for golf courses and luxury hotels.