Good news from Portugal: 3.6 million euros to strengthen community-based forestry

A new agreement between the Portuguese state and the main associations of community lands will provide 3.6 million euros for the protection, conservation, production, recreation and landscape functions of community forest areas, as well as a reduction of the fire risk in these areas.

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Photo: Henrique Manuel Esteves

Community based forestry in Portugal is a complex and difficult process for most stakeholders, especially for local communities. Most of these community forest areas were created during the State occupation of baldios (traditional name given to Portuguese community lands) between 1940-1960.

Today, baldios with forest use occupy approximately 6% of the continental territory and are mainly located in the mountains of the North and Center of the country. These areas are, in the national forest universe, a valuable heritage and an important space of silvicultural activities.

With the return of these territories to local communities in 1976, their management decentralization process began. Today, there are more than 1.000 baldio units under different management modalities: from autonomously controlled units by local communities to complex models including Forest Services, associations, Parishes and/or City Councils.

Due to frequent wildfires in the last decades, as well as the need for rural development, there is an urgent need for investment and joint cooperation between stakeholders in order to ensure the sustainable management of these forest areas.

As can be seen from the experience of other countries, decentralization may not work if there are no institutions that can assist in the development of this process. Strong and dynamic local institutions are a prerequisite for a successful implementation and the good results of decentralization. In turn, their development requires funds, time and effort.

At the beginning of 2018 Federation of Associations of Baldios Areas BALADI presented a proposal for the Secretary of State for Forestry and Rural Development on the creation of a grouping of community forest areas provided in the Baldios´ law. In the process of preparing and developing this pilot project, another significant association of baldios and small forest producers, FORESTIS, was also joined its discussion. As a sequel, on February 1, 2019, the Portuguese Government was launched a pilot program that intends to group the baldios of 15 priority areas into 20 groups.

Photo: BALADI

The total budget for the project amounts to 3.6 million euros. The associations BALADI and FORESTIS, in collaboration with the Forest Services, local authorities and industries, are will responsible for the developing of a forest management model that not only improves the sustainability of baldios, but also coordinates actions for a structural fire prevention, raising the awareness of populations, organizing forest areas, and planning forestry and infrastructures.

In the course of the project implementation, the development of a baldio cadaster is expected, as well as the development of an inventory with the subsequent development of resource management plans. Special attention will be paid to the socio-economic needs of local rural communities.

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