Researchers argue that there is no future without forests

Meeting in the Algarve discussed problems of the Mediterranean forest and presented some paths to take

Roundtable – Photo: Bruno Martins

The adverse effects of climate change, the depopulation and abandonment of the hinterland and the lack of economic and sustainable use of the Mediterranean forest were central themes in the final conference of the project “Valuation and Use of the Mediterranean Forest, the case of the Municipality of Loulé”, developed by Manuel Viegas Guerreiro Foundation (FMVG) and by the Municipality of Loulé, with the support of the University of Algarve (UAlg).

The event, which took place on the 1st of June, in the Green Auditorium of the Faculty of Science and Technology of UAlg, brought together national and foreign researchers, who brought to light some of the biggest problems of today and discussed solutions for them.

During the various interventions, it became clear that it is necessary to look at the forest as an essential good for the sustainability of the planet and the quality of life of Man.

In the specific case of the Mediterranean area, where the annual increase in temperature, water scarcity and strong fires threaten the maintenance of biodiversity, experts warn of the urgent need to create more incisive, effective and concerted management policies.

“There is no sustainable development of territories without governance. And this governance has to be a dynamic process of coordination between public and private, national, regional and local actors. Everyone must be involved and participate in defining objectives, making decisions and evaluating actions on the ground”, defended researcher Eduardo Chia, from INRAE ​​– Institut Nacional de Recherche pour l'agriculture, l'alimentation et l'environnement.


Nuno Ribeiro, from the University of Évora – Photo: Bruno Martins


A vision shared by Helena Freitas, professor at the University of Coimbra, who focused her intervention on the theme “The Forest and the Valorization of the Territory in the New Economy”.

“Various studies have shown us that the world's major economies depend on the sustainability of natural ecosystems. And this narrative has to be taken into account in a general framework of social transformation”, mentioned the researcher, recalling that “one of the biggest challenges today is to reduce the impact of our food system on the forest”.

Another of the problems pointed out by the specialist was the abandonment of rural areas. In Portugal, for example, only 14% of the population lives inland, which leads to the existence of desertified territorial areas and the underutilization of forest wealth.

Nuno Ribeiro, professor at the University of Évora and member of the College of Forestry Engineering of the Order of Engineers, also brought to the debate the need to invest in the training of specialists in the forestry area, so that scientific knowledge and technology can, each increasingly be the basis of decision-making and governance processes.

During the Final Conference there was still time for the presentation of the theme “The Forest in the Algarve”, by Castelão Rodrigues, from the ICNF, and for the presentation of the results of the project “Valuation and Use of the Mediterranean Forest, the case of the Municipality of Loulé”, by researchers and professors from the University of Algarve Maria de Belém Costa Freitas and Carla Antunes.

António Xavier presented “The Rural Register of Loulé” and Ana Valentina Masso presented the results of the survey to forestry producers, carried out during the course of the project.

The event ended with a round table on the theme “The forest in the Municipality of Loulé – what future?”, in which José Paulo Nunes and Luís Cabral Silva, both agricultural producers, Miguel Freitas, former Secretary of State for Forests and Rural Development, and Pedro Chaves, responsible for AMAL's Forest Office. Moderation was in charge of the journalist Elisabete Rodrigues.


Photo: Bruno Martins


Visit to the interior of the Municipality of Loulé

In addition to the meeting at the University of Algarve, the MVG Foundation and the Municipality of Louletano also organized, on the 2nd of June, a visit to the interior of the municipality of Loulé, during which the speakers and other guests were able to get to know the reality of the Serra do Caldeirão and some forestry producers.

The visit began in a cork oak grove, close to Barranco do Velho, where the group was able to watch, on the spot, cork tapping.

Living and working in a rural area of ​​great natural wealth, where raw materials of immeasurable value abound, Francisco Costa, a businessman in the cork business for decades, guaranteed that, currently, “the biggest problems facing the activity are the lack of rain , the shortage of labor and the lack of young people interested in investing in agriculture”. Difficulties common to other agricultural sectors.

Passing through “Casa dos Cocharros”, a traditional distillery in the village of Cortelha, the participants were entitled to an explanation about the manufacturing process of medronho brandy and heard the concerns of producer Aquilino Costa, who, like Francisco, also views the future of his family business with some apprehension.

“In my opinion, the issue of aging is a pressing problem, since we cannot do anything without social capital. We are often thinking about solutions and innovations for the territory, but then we don't have the human mass to appropriate that knowledge and apply it. We need to think collectively and find a way to attract young people to the interior of the country”, explained researcher Maria de Belém Costa Freitas.

The project “Valuation and Use of the Mediterranean Forest, the case of the Municipality of Loulé” lasted 24 months and resulted from a joint application between the Manuel Viegas Guerreiro Foundation and the Municipality of Loulé, under the Development Action Plan of Endogenous Resources (PADRE).