By Rocio Juste, Évora University (Portugal)
The University of Évora, Portugal, as one of the partners of the PEGASUS project, carried out three case studies
We can say that these three case studies are representative of the rural reality of this country, characterised by an increasing intensification of farming while, at the same time, traditional farming still remains an important sector of the Portuguese economy. Also, while there is an important migration of people leaving rural areas to cities, in recent years some people have returned to the countryside looking for a better quality life.
What we identify in these first steps of the case study work in Portugal is that in all three contexts, there is some provision of environmental and social benefits – albeit to varying degrees - which contribute to the way of living in the rural Portugal.
One of the case studies (PT-1) focused on the typical Montado landscape. The Montado is a Mediterranean and multifunctional silvo-pastoral land-use system, dominated by cork and holm oaks trees. Traditional production practices in Montado systems often provide biodiversity-rich habitats and support high nature value type of farming. They also enable the maintenance of this highly valued landscape which contributes to a sustainable use of environmental resources, cultural value and attractiveness for leisure.
In our case study on small-scale farming (PT-2), the mosaic landscape shaped by small scale farms, visible from the towns, was found to be of foremost importance to the inhabitants, and a core element of their appreciation of the local landscape. We found that the mosaic landscape depends on land use-based activities often not taken in account by policies including at the local scale. Beyond maintaining a cultural landscape, small scale farmers and land managers in this region provide a range of other environmental and social benefits to society. In PT-3, we have analysed the case of intensive olive groves production in an area where extensive practices quickly intensified for a number of economic and social reasons, and have major implications for the sustained provision of environmental outcomes in particular.
In all three PEGASUS case studies, we adopted a participatory approach based on regular interactions with the local stakeholders. For this reason, the choice of pursuing one case study in the in-depth phase has been difficult. At a PEGASUS meeting in Estonia, we finally agreed to the small-scale farming case study was the best for the PEGASUS project as a whole. While this is settled, our main challenge is now going to be how to interact with stakeholders in a way we can get the information for the in-depth analysis while also ensuring the work in PEGASUS benefits them.
For more information about what is the PEGASUS team going to do for the next steps, check this link!
Photo credit: David Cruz