Regeneration for Mértola, Portugal

Mértola is a beautiful region in Alentejo/Southern Portugal that is particularly vulnerable to climate change and desertification. The regeneration and food-network initiative - Mértola - Laboratory for the future – works in collaboration and partnership between farmers, the local community, schools and municipality. Our aim is to regenerate soil, vegetation and water cycle through agro-ecological practices and to create cultural and economic perspectives for the people of this beautiful region. We have co-created already:

• A local food-network: in collaboration with farmers, school canteens, local shops, restaurants, the municipality and the community.

• A pilot & demonstration area for best practices of regeneration: including Syntropic farming, peer-to-peer learning of regenerative practices between the farmers.

• A program for new regenerative farmers: where we provide access to land, on-site formation and capacity building, as well as economic support for settling in Mértola and the regenerative work.

• The regional educational community: from primary schools to vocational education and inter-generational learning.

During our work, we identified that the access to seeds that are locally adapted to the semi-arid climate conditions is a key major challenge and addressing it will be a key factor for success. Better access to locally adapted varieties of seeds & seedlings will act as a catalyst for the success of the entire regeneration initiative and it will enable more farmers to build up vegetation and regenerate soil.

Seed sovereignty and climate-adapted plants for regeneration:

This project the regenerative Nursery «Horto of Forgotten Varieties of Al Andaluz « is an essential piece for the entire regeneration process, which will enable farmers to change towards agro-ecological practices. Access to climate adapted seeds and plants is a pre-condition for scaling-up the regeneration of degraded land. An important focus of our work is on species and varieties that are more resilient to semi-arid/drought conditions (both from Portugal and other Mediterranean countries), which will be re-grown locally.

In collaboration with ethno-botanic and archeological research we realized, that the heritage of Mértola being part of the Al-Andaluz cultural sphere connecting Southern Europe with the Mediterranean, also brought a diversity of plants and seeds. With our regenerative nursery we re-connect with the old wisdom and ethno-botanic diversity from this broader region and we will build a regenerative pathway towards the future.

The knowledge, identification, propagation and access to heat and climate adapted varieties of seeds & seedlings will be a game-changing factor for all of the participating farmers in adopting regenerative practices.

Next steps for our regenerative nursery in Mértola

We started this nursery and seeds project successfully: In a first phase, we realized the needed research, as well as building up the production infrastructure and capacities. Now, in the second phase, we will ensure, that we build the depth of on-field research and expanding the production in both diversity and quantity that will enable an effective long-term scaling-up.

Although we are making progress in developing sustainable distribution and selling capacities for the seeds & seedlings, this will be commercially possible only in the next phases, when we will be equipped fully with the know-how and capacities to produce larger quantities for the needs of the entire region.

To successfully transit to the next phase of our regenerative nursery, we need your help. In this crowdfunding campaign we are working with two funding levels. The first is CHF 50,000, but we hope to raise a total of CHF 132,600. Our purpose is to improve the important infrastructure, to be able to finance part of our project salaries for the next two years and to help us make the planned trainings and capacity buildings possible.

In a first round of crowd-funding we aim towards raising 50’000 CHF, which we will invest into: an upgrade of our infrastructure (10’000 CHF) paying salaries to our core-team of seed-and plant-specialists (30’000 CHF) and training, education and communication (10’000).

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