Pedro Farrancha with his braveness is bringing the practice of regenerative farming to the rural area of Alentejo
What Pedro Farrancha, 26 years old and participant of our Erasmus+ Permahabitat course took on to do, is something enough brave. Right after the course, Pedro spent one year in Alentejo, a region of interior Portugal that is being neglected, deforested and abused for decades, and where the effects of climate change, with prolonged droughts and rising temperatures, are visible each year. Every week this wounded territory sees itself being stripped of native Quercus ilex trees and ancient olive trees to see itself being substituted by other fast growing foreign species highly dependent on water and tonnes of synthetic chemicals that are sprayed day and night.
Beginning of the year, shortly after his participation in our Permaculture Design Course, he started converting his parents land, a small piece of orange grove, into an agroforestry. With the help of many friends he gathered (also we were there, check our post on it) he converted the orange tree monoculture into an abundant biodiverse food forest, consisting of over 30 different plant species with a special focus on vines. For the coming season, the plan is also the conversion of the olive grove surrounding this small plot.
And lucky are the curious visitors of the eco-tourism family business that started a few years ago on the same land, since they gain a unique experience visiting the food forest, that is just next to the guest house and which is also providing the kitchen with an abundance of fresh vegetables right from the food forest.
Pedro started a powerful journey, right after finishing his studies. We can all learn from his bravery, and from his food forest.
It is one example on how to convert an orange grove, farmed conventionally with the use of chemicals, into a regenerative plot of land providing biodiversity and regenerating the land without the use of any additional chemical substance. Because a food forest is a self-sufficient system, like a natural forest. Knowledge for this particular climate and conditions can be transferred to other lands, and other farmers can benefit from this knowledge.
Pedro is one of a handful of agroforestry pioneers in Europe trying to find the best way, or one way, to apply agroforestry in Europe. His involvement in the student initiative in Lisbon university hortaFCUL surely played a big role in this, but for a next step, our workshops and those of others, organizing food forest or agroforestry workshops seem to play a crucial role in enabling this ecological transition and support especially young farmers. And as important as the knowledge gained in the courses is, likewise important we find is the community that evolves during the courses - because in the end, community empowers.
How the story of Pedro will continue is still uncertain: Living in a remote area with many social challenges, in a village of 37 people, and having chemicals sprayed around your land is surely not enjoyable. If not more consumers start to realize the importance of buying chemical free food (organic certified products from farmers they know and trust) pioneers like Pedro will have to struggle living in a tiny paradise that is though vastly influenced by the chemicals applied around him. We, like Pedro and like many other organic farmers and regenerative farmers are confronted daily with these questions. Shall we maybe rather leave and live on the mountain, far from chemicals, to protect our own health? Or stay and fight for a better future? At least, we will have our oasis in the desert.
We deserve to open our windows and breathe fresh air, not chemicals.
Learn more about Pedro, his agroforestry and his family´s eco-tourism here: