Help us prepare our rural areas for the future: preventing wildfires by creating healthier ecosystems and active communities.
Long story short
After the August 2022 wildfires in the Serra da Estrela in Central Portugal, the communities of the villages of Figueiró da Serra and Freixo da Serra founded the association Veredas da Estrela. Together we want to create new models for the future of our villages, improving fire prevention, restoring and maintaining forests that are more resilient to wildfires and droughts, and strengthening the community. We have already started to work but, with your help, we want to go further and hopefully inspire others to do similar things in their own communities!
On 6th of August 2022 a fire started near Covilhã, south east of the Serra da Estrela Natural Park, devastating an area of 25.000 hectares and making its way to the north of the Natural Park in a period of 11 days, until reaching our area. It was the second huge wildfire, the previous one was in October 2017, that affected our villages in ways and dimensions unknown until that time.
Many of our farmlands and grazing areas, chestnut and olive plantations, and orchards outside of the villages are torched. A recently reforested area with more than 1000 trees planted by 60 people from the villages and volunteers suffered great losses. Many families lost at least parts of their farms, if not all of it.
After 2017, many of us thought that this kind of fire was an exception, only possible due to the extreme weather conditions during that day and night in October 2017. 2022 proved us wrong and showed us that it’s time to act. While we can’t stop wildfires from happening, we can do more to protect our villages, farms and forests on a local scale, giving our ecosystems time to recover and helping them to become more resilient to the increasing threat of wildfires on the Iberian Peninsula.
What we will do...
We are convinced that wildfires of this dimension have diverse reasons - abandonment of land, forest monocultures, loss of biodiversity, droughts and other severe weather conditions caused by climate change, and so on - and thus have to be tackled on various levels that include reforestation just as much as attracting new residents. With your help, we want to do the first steps on some of these levels. Here’s what we plan to do thanks to your contributions:
- Increase fire prevention by creating a safety zone around the villages, that we maintain free from highly flammable trees and bushes, restoring ecosystems and replanting more fire resilient tree varieties. We need to buy machines and pay tractor work to be able to do this.
- Maintain basic equipment for first interventions during a wildfire. The first 10 to 15 minutes are decisive in fire fighting, and our experience shows that local people are able to do an important job in this initial time frame.
- Buy at least 2 hectars of abandoned land in our parish, in a zone strategically important for fire prevention, and turn it into a community chestnut forest. We want to experiment with different approaches of reforestation, from new plantations to caring for existing older-growth tree-stock, thus finding ways to create more resilient forests that can later be applied in further projects.
- Keep trails in the mountains clear, so that more people can enjoy this area and help us to take care of it, by giving it responsible use and spreading the word.
Why it matters...
Throughout Europe rural communities have to deal with similar challenges: the effects of climate change, increasing droughts and loss of population. However, all of us - no matter if we live in a huge city or on the countryside - depend on rural areas for food, water and the air we breathe, but also for natural materials like timber or simply to spend our leisure time. Good and inspiring examples are needed if we want to tackle the problems of these areas so they can keep providing these important services to all of us.
Our villages have been hit hard and early by the effects of climate change. However, while demographic change has led to abandonment of rural areas and agricultural lands throughout Europe, Figueiró and Freixo da Serra recently have not only managed to keep a significant part of the younger population, but have also attracted new neighbours - an exception, not only in our region. So maybe this growing community could be an example of how different futures in rural regions are possible? Futures built in participatory ways, based on strong communities taking care of more resilient ecosystems that can be preserved for generations to come. Micro-solutions for globally emerging problems, focusing on the commons, not on individual benefits. What we will be able to do may be small, but we want to share it and inspire others to do something similar, adapted to their own communities.
If you live in Portugal, protecting our area affects you even more directly: Maybe you like the cheese we produce here, the wine or the beautiful hiking trails. But you surely drink water that comes from these mountains and sometimes even breathe the smoke that comes from its wildfires. Help us to protect this beautiful part of the Natural Park, for us, for you and for generations to come!
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Veredas da Estrela
We've done the first big step!
We are 50 now, and we have reached the amount that allows us to continue to realize one of our primary goals: to organize volunteer actions to reforest and restore the ecosystems of the hillsides around us. A big thank you for your support!
Share the campaign so that together we can take the next steps: Purchase equipment for heavier work and for first interventions in case of fire - and create a community chestnut forest. Let's go for it :)
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Veredas da Estrela
Já somos 50 e chegámos ao
Já somos 50 e chegámos ao valor que nos permite continuar a realizar um dos nossos primeiros objetivos: organizar ações de voluntariado para reflorestar e restaurar os ecossistemas das encostas à nossa volta. O nosso enorme bem-haja pelo vosso apoio!
Partilhem a campanha para que, juntos, possamos fazer os próximos passos: Adquirirmos equipamento para trabalhos mais pesados e para primeiras intervenções em caso de incêndio - e criarmos um souto comunitário. Vamos a isso :)
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