The modernization of the traditional Algarve countryside

The appeal of nature offered by the traditional rural Algarve, duly adjusted to modern times, is an immense field of possibilities within the reach of the region and the economy of the 2nd rurality

I return to a topic that I have already covered here, the modernization of the traditional rural Algarve. Using common sense and good taste and taking advantage of the example of the Mediterranean Diet to modernize, in the right direction, the traditional rural Algarve, let us make some reflections regarding its local production system (SPL).

Let us think, for example, of the Algarve goat value chain and the tasks that this option entails, always with a view to valuing local economies and their most sensitive ecosystems. If we think about the multiple virtuous associations between agricultural production, food engineering, distribution logistics, territorial marketing, design and communication, arts and culture, we will have an immense field of possibilities for the SPL of structured goods and services around the cluster formed by the Algarve goat, wild fruits, prickly pear, honey, arbutus, mushrooms, aromatic and medicinal herbs, artisanal cosmetics, hunting, citrus fruits, not to mention the universe of lost seeds, especially in the horticultural area, a surprising world that lies expectant beneath our feet, waiting for an opportunity.

Furthermore, I am talking about manifestations of territorial intelligence that are perfectly within our reach.

At a more operational level, the verticalization of the Algarve goat value chain comprises the following operations:

– Firstly, regroup producers of the indigenous Algarve goat breed with a view to identifying and valuing the species’ local biodiversity and its ecological niche;

– Secondly, organize technical, associative and public assistance, along a more agroecological and ecosystemic approach;

– Thirdly, rejuvenate the social capital involved, whether at the family level of the producers or by inviting new entrants to the group;

– Fourthly, improve the production process, expand the functions of the value chain and add its internalities and circularities (circular economy) with a view to reducing its internal transaction costs: breed, pasture, biodiversity, bush clearing, composting, etc.;

– Fifthly, diversify the Algarve goat final product line and diversify target markets through more intelligent marketing and marketing;

– Finally, capitalize on the production sector and link the Algarve goat value chain with the agroforestry exploitation of the ZIF, thereby adding the mass, muscle and nervous system of this local and sub-regional production system.

However, this methodology for the verticalization of the Algarve goat sector will only be entirely successful if, at the same time, we have in hand a creative economy and tourist visitation project that is articulated with the SPL, in such a way that this intersection and this reticular mesh we can derive a new territorial intelligence and, from it, design a new basket of structured products and services that we can identify with a more contemporary and cosmopolitan image of the region.

By way of illustration, let's see how this tighter mesh and this denser capillarity could be organized in a region like the Algarve and in a sub-region like the Barrocal Serra Algarve. Let us list the traditional arts and think about what could be accomplished with some small innovations introduced in these activities in such a way that, from them, a network territory and a network economy and tourist visitation could be structured and built:

1. The arts of grazing the Algarvian goat;
2. The arts of traditional Algarve linen/cheesemaking;
3. The arts of drawing cork;
4. The arts of retailing and olive picking;
5. The arts of retailing and harvesting carob and almond;
6. The arts of beekeeping and honey production and the transhumance of bees;
7. The arts of treading the grapes on foot;
8. The arts of arbutus distillation;
9. The arts of prickly pears;
10. The arts of collecting mycological products;
11. The arts associated with pruning and grafting;
12. The arts associated with traditional cosmetics;
13. The arts associated with aromatic herbs;
14. The arts associated with medicinal herbs;
15. The arts of basketry and pottery;
16. The arts associated with edible flowers;
17. The arts associated with artisanal fishing;
18. The arts associated with hunting and hunting;
19. The arts of traditional confectionery and confectionery;
20. The arts associated with traditional cuisine.

Let us now imagine the mapping of these activities in the network territory under construction and the diversity of structured products and services that would be possible to create from the combination and intersection of all these activities. As an example, we point out some innovations in terms of product design obtained by crossing the vertical rows of production and the horizontal rows of visitation and consumption, here designated by us in the form of a day in:

- A day in the forest of the Algarve mountains: the harvesting of wild fruits and the distillation of medronho combined with mycological tourism and nature trails and mountain cuisine of the Mediterranean diet;

- A day in the villages of the Algarve Barrocal: the harvesting of aromatic and medicinal herbs, their preparation and distillation, combined with visits to the apiary and guided tours of the living heritage and museums of the villages; at night, Mediterranean cuisine and music and theater evenings in the village;

- A scientific and cultural journey in the Algarve's Barrocal and Serra: guided tours to observe the floristic and faunal endemisms of the Algarve Barrocal and Serra, combined with nature trails, literary landscapes, Mediterranean gastronomy and cultural village evenings; It is important to remember that the inventory and safeguard plan for the Mediterranean diet require the creation of a line of research in this particular area;

- A day on the hunt: preparing for and participating in a hunt, cooking hunting products, sessions on nature and wildlife and hunting tourism;

- A day in the Ria Formosa: observation of fish and birds in the Ria Formosa, nature trails through the Ria, gastronomy of the Ria, sessions on the nature and wildlife of the Ria and cultural and recreational activities on the pretext of the Ria;

- A day on the cork route: the harvesting of cork and its industrial transformation, the artistic and decorative arts associated with cork, the products and gastronomy of the cork oak forest, the picking of edible flowers, the scientific, cultural and recreational sessions associated with the multifunctionality of the cork forest;

- A day at the herding: herding a herd of indigenous breed goats, collecting milk and producing artisanal cheese, tasting the cuisine of the Mediterranean diet, attending cultural and recreational sessions associated with the agro-silvo-pastoral system;

- A day in the traditional dryland orchard of the Algarve Barrocal: harvesting figs, almonds and carob, their preparation and processing, the crafts of traditional sweets, workshops on traditional sweets, cuisine of the Mediterranean diet, sessions on local crafts;

- A day in the vineyard and winery: knowledge of good production practices in the vineyard, grape treading, the winemaking process, recycling of waste, derivative products, wine tasting and wine tourism, gastronomy of the associated Mediterranean diet, cultural, technical and scientific studies linked to vineyards and wine;

- A day in the olive grove and at the oil mill: knowledge of good production practices in the olive grove, olive harvesting, the transformation process in the mill, recycling of waste, derivative products, olive oil tasting, associated Mediterranean diet cuisine, cultural, technical and scientific sessions linked to olive groves and olive oil.

These short programs can also be associated with special programs for senior tourism and tourism for groups with reduced mobility and be linked, for example, with artistic residencies and creative and cultural production (creative and cultural weeks) and, also, with maintenance and treatment physical education programs adapted to special groups and recreational programs of nighttime events of fado, theater, chamber music, folklore, singing and poetry, cinema and documentaries, table games championships, competitions several, etc.


Final grade

In the case of the Algarve, with so much tourist visitation throughout the year, it is essential to verticalize the Algarve economy between the coast and the barrocal mountains and attract part of this visitation to the interior of the Algarve through the creative activities suggested here.

I have no doubt that the appeal of nature offered by the traditional rural Algarve, duly adjusted to modern times, is an immense field of possibilities within the reach of the region and the economy of the 2nd rurality.


Author António Covas is a Retired Full Professor at the University of Algarve


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