Dozens of entities give clues to make life in Alcoutim easier

Life in the northeast of the Algarve is very difficult, unlike the idyllic and serene landscapes provided by the mountains […]

Alcoutim_Rio GuadianaLife in the northeast of the Algarve is very difficult, contrary to what the idyllic and serene landscapes provided by the mountains and the River Guadiana might suggest. to try to make the life of those who live here easier and attract more inhabitants, rrepresentatives of public entities, academics, association leaders and businessmen gathered last Saturday at the Espaço Guadiana, in Alcoutim, and gave suggestions for developing this territory.

The Alcouteneja autarchy launched the challenge to dozens of entities and personalities to reflect on the best development strategy for this municipality, based on the results of the World Rural Days of Alcoutim, in March. And the challenge was widely accepted, which it allowed to bring together decision makers from the most diverse sectors in the same room, as well as renowned technicians and researchers working in the area of ​​local development.

finished this focus group, which was moderated by former socialist deputy Miguel Freitas, who himself has long been linked to issues of the rural world and agriculture, a central idea remained: Alcoutim cannot think of a development strategy that is not largely based on the Guadiana River.

Forest in Alcoutim

This rapprochement with the river was pointed out, by most of the technicians present, as a basic condition to be able to reverse the process of desertification in this territory, which has fewer and fewer people and an aging population.

More than having fewer and fewer inhabitants, Alcoutim and other municipalities in the interior are struggling with problems that derive from them, such as the closing of public services, which leads to rights that, with more or less quality, are available to most of the population. population, such as education and local public health services, are not taken for granted.

To reverse this trend, it is necessary, first of all, to create conditions for the settling of young people, but also of couples with children. And a good way to do this is through job creation.

In this field, two key areas were identified and operational groups were created in the forest and hunting areas. But there is also tourism and endogenous wealth, sectors that Alcoutim has the potential to explore.

In the case of the forest sector, there is good and bad news. The bad news, put forward by the leader of the association of forestry producers «Cumeadas», is that the stone pine, which was extensively planted in this mountainous territory, about 20 years ago, has now become a problem.

Too high planting densities, which lead to problems in the development of trees and impede their productivity, and the increased risk of pests that come from too high a concentration of trees, are just two examples of a problem that needs to be resolved.

The good news is that this situation could motivate the creation of some jobs, as it will be necessary to “cut down 50 percent of the stone pine that exists and thin the remaining ones, also in the order of 50 percent of its branches”, according to Telma Marques, president of Cumeadas.

In the air, the question remained on how to release the much organic matter that will be left over from a forestry operation of this size. In this field, there are several ideas, from the creation of a unit to transform leftover green waste into pellets – a solution seen with strong suspicion by many technicians, as this is a one-off operation, which does not guarantee the viability of the investment in the long term – even to the simple shredding of the leftover wood and reuse as substrate in forest production areas.

The enrichment of the soil was, moreover, what justified the bet on stone pine, according to the president of the Chamber of Alcoutim Osvaldo Gonçalves. «A few decades ago, there was a need to bet on a species that would promote the recovery of soils, which were heavily eroded by successive cereal crops. The species that was chosen was the stone pine, not so much from a perspective of future production, but to achieve this goal”, he illustrated.

Alcoutim Hiking Festival_4

Today, the period in which forest owners and producers were entitled to monetary compensation, via European funds, for the loss of profitability inherent to the times associated with the growth of the forests they planted, is over, the question of profitability is increasingly pressing. Hence Cumeadas' intention to organize the forest zone so that it can become productive in the medium term.

Also important is the hunting activity in the Alcoutenejo territory, not least because of the tourist dimension associated with it. Alcoutim has several private hunting reserves in its territory, which is seen as an asset to enhance this activity.

But, more than economics, hunting areas can also be areas that contribute to the preservation of biodiversity. "Cinegetics, as long as they follow good practices, can be extremely important for the preservation of natural capital," defended Tito Rosa, president of the League for the Protection of Nature, an opinion shared by other stakeholders.

In addition to these ideas, there were many others under debate, such as greater use of the territory's potential and existing infrastructures, such as the Via Algarviana and the Grande Rota do Guadiana, for nature tourism.

Also the gastronomy and local products can be an asset, bringing economic return. Here, the Algarvian goat stands out, a bet that can bring good returns to local producers, as long as it is properly structured.

Although there are many ideas, their implementation will not be easy, as it is not living in this territory these days. For this strategy to be successful, there will have to be, from the outset, a strong component of cooperation, not only at a local level, but also at a regional level, because, experts warn, trying to develop an Algarve municipality in a way that is not part of a regional plan can mean throw money away.