Despite its desert-like appearance, the El Jable region in the centre of the island is prime agricultural land for planting various crops. Its success as farmland is down to two factors, firstly because of the clay soil that lies beneath the sandy layer of jable, and secondly because this coarse jable, formed by tiny pieces of seashells, has similar mulching properties to volcanic ash, in that it retains moisture, discourages weeds and delays decay.
In the past, the most commonly planted crops here were cereals. Later it was the sweet potato, which was exported to the United Kingdom. And, more recently it’s the melons, watermelons and tomatoes grown here that are highly sought-after due to their excellent quality.
With the aid of hedge barriers formed by cereal plants, farmers have learned to ‘play’ with the moving sand, guiding it so that it settles in specific areas where it will help encourage crop growth.