Folha Verde - Natural Education and Community Project
After the devastating wildfires that struck a large region of Central Portugal in October 2017, the community in the mountains surrounding Benfeita transform an old traditional Olive press building into a community and education center to rise from the ashes again.
Future after Fire
The highly devastating wildfires of October 2017 struck the community of Benfeita valley and surrounding villages in the mountains of Central Portugal hard. At least 25 families became homeless and all people lost their farms and forest land. Over the past ten years a relatively large community of 200 adults and 50 children, foreigners and young Portuguese families alike, have moved back to this rural area, locally referred to as “The Bowl” consisting of approximately 3000hectares formed by the ridges and valleys surrounding Benfeita. They have come from all corners of Europe and Portugal to establish a life in harmony with nature and to find an alternative way of living that is less destructive to our natural environment.
Most of them have invested all of their time and resources into reviving the abandoned ruins and land this area is known for. Many of the houses were hand-build with natural, eco friendly and locally sources materials such as Xisto stones, wood, cork, straw bale and cob by the new residents themselves, often supported by other members of the community.
Photo © Wendy Howard, Quinta do Vale
They grow organic food on their Quintas, applying regenerative practices to help the local ecosystem thrive. As a community they collectively work on efforts to restore the forest land into native deciduous forest by frequently organising community planting days.
Folha Verde is a project initiated and carried out by the local community of around 150 like-minded adults and 50 children, most of whom have moved to the central region of Portugal to be closer to nature and to live a more sustainable life. The community consists of people from various backgrounds, cultures and age, bringing an interesting and highly varied plate of skills, wisdom and talents to the table. You’ll find scientists, architects, eco-builders, teachers, holistic doctors, natural medicine experts, project managers, content creators, strategists, communication professionals, nutritional consultants, musicians, artists, regenerative farmers, innovators and chefs ao.
Within the community there were various interesting projects established which focus on education and services on the topics of sustainable food production, new distribution models, eco-building, low impact living, reforestation and ecosystem restoration, alternative education, new monetary systems and circular renewable technology. Most of these projects were destroyed by the fires or deeply affected.
In order for the community to rise from the ashes a team of dedicated residents works on the transformation of an old Lagar (olive press) in the valley of Benfeita into an education and community center. By providing a space the affected community members will be able to continue their practices by offering workshops, courses, healing therapies, events and classes. There’s a need within the community to have a space like this, since most of the privately owned spaces are lost and although governmental institutes approved various projects to receive financial aid to be rebuild, up until this day 11 months later, none of the affected families has a proper roof over their heads again.
The youth is the truth
During daytime hours we reserve a place for the children of the community to take part in the natural education project. We follow the principles of agile learning, a global movement of learning centers which restore the joy of learning with a surprisingly effective educational approach. The children are provided with a beautiful natural space, a permaculture garden and a variety of inspiring elements to explore themselves and the world around them. Various community members will be involved with the creation of this new educational paradigm of which you can read more on our website.
The Lagar (olive press) is situated in a central valley next to the river in Benfeita, which makes it easy accessible for all of those living in the surrounding villages of Luadas, Esculca, Pai das Dona, Pardieiros, Sardal, Monte Frio, Cerdeira, Dreia and those of us living in the wider region between Arganil, Coja and Oliveira do Hospital. This ancient building was build with the traditional technique of drystone masonry work using the locally available Xist stones.
In the building you still find the old mill and other features that remind us of the older days when this mill was still in use by the local community that resided here before us.
A beautiful waterfall and natural pool situated right next to the Lagar allow for refreshing dips and the large flat terrace in front of the building provides an excellent space to grow organic food.
A central hub of exchanges
The Lagar will provide a space for all of those within the community to exchange their skills and talents which results in a diverse range of exiting community workshops and educational events.Our usual monthly community get-togethers such as men's and women's groups and meetings about our collective efforts towards the sustainability of the local region in relation to forestry, ecosystem restoration and the water situation can also take place in the Lagar. For more information about our community members and established projects in the valley visit www.folhaverde.pt/community
In order for the space to be used we need to renovate the interior, add floors and division walls, build a kitchen and toilet facilities, install heating and insulation and make tables and chairs. Of course we are determined to work with environmental friendly materials and techniques that are locally available to us as much as possible.
Considering the situation personal capital is very slim after the fires, so the community is tapping into various opportunities to finance this project. This crowdfunding campaign is launched to raise the funds needed for the start-up expenses and renovation of the building in order for the project to be operational as soon as possible. Most of the work will be executed by the community members themselves voluntarily in their free time but some funding is needed for materials and equipment.
After the necessary work is done, the project will be financially sustainable by asking a small fee for those using the space. Parents of children who bring their children to the center for daycare pay a monthly fee and other teachers, practitioners and event hosts pay a fair rental fee based on the revenue they make from their services. The project will run as a non-profit organisation and all revenue will be invested in improving the space and community.
With this project we hope to offer an opportunity for the community to continue with their recovery after the disaster in October by providing a space to learn, to grow and to support each other. We envision the burnt landscape to be transformed in the beautiful green one it once was by collectively putting our efforts towards planting and maintaining the land. In the upcoming years we aim to be largely self-sufficient in our plant based nutritional needs for those using the space. Besides providing a space for the local community, we hope to welcome and invite many people from all over the world to experience this life in nature we love so much. We lost everything, but not all is lost.
Thank you for your infinite support and generosity.
To make a donation on the One Percent Club Crowdfunding website, click HERE
Insulation & Heating €1,500
Solar system €3,000
Gravity fed water system (incl taps & sinks) €500
Windows & Doors €1,500
Building materials (wood, clay, sand, nails, etc) €1,000
Lighting & Electricity €250
Kitchen (materials) €500
Kitchen (equipment) €1,500
Furniture (tables, chairs, cabinets) €1,000
Fencing, garden & landscape €1,000
Compost toilets €250