This body of work portrays the social and economic landscape of the Spanish greenhouse plains of Almeria. Once a deserted land and traditionally an impoverished territory, today the Almeria fields represent the largest concentration of plastic greenhouses in the world.

This economic rush has attracted many migrant workers from the northern and western countries of the African continent. Since September 2007 and during the course of several trips in 2008 I have been documenting the sheer scale of this agricultural activity.The principal aim of this photo essay is to show how the mass-production of vegetables for northern European markets has dramatically shaped the landscape of this region. This profitable agribusiness has pushed the land to its very environmental limits, jeopardizing at the very same time its own sustainable development. The lack of natural resources essential for agricultural development has been made up with large financial and technological investments. With little more than 200 millimetres of annual precipitation, the industry relies on groundwater fed by small stream aquifers from the Sierra de Gádor Mountains to the north. But as most coastal aquifers become contaminated with pesticides, fertilizers and seawater an increasing number of environmentalists question the long-term economic sustainability of this industry.

In addition to the landscapes, this body of work also focuses on the role that agricultural workers play in this industry.  Almeria is a remarkable example of transit migration and it is still one of the main arrival points of undocumented migrant workers from Africa into the European Union. I have been able to meet Hamze from Gambia, Francisco from Senegal and Nabil and Samil from Morocco, among others, in the intimacy of the shacks and derelict houses in which they live. 

The fact is that more than 20,000 undocumented workers are systematically employed in this labour-intensive industry and many have to endure extreme living and working conditions. All have set sail across a murderous sea to reach the Spanish shore but only to become trapped in the red tape of immigration rules in this dramatic maze of white plastic.

Reinaldo Loureiro took part in the 2009 Rhubarb-Rhubarb International Photographic Review.