Escritura da Associação ALGARVENSIS Loulé-Silves-Albufeira (4)

Algarve Association created for aspiring UNESCO Geopark

The Municipalities of Loulé, Silves and Albufeira and the University of the Algarve collaborated to create the “Associação Geoparque Algarvensis”.

The Associação Geoparque Algarvensis, a new association created by the Municipalities of Loulé, Silves and Albufeira and the University of Algarve to manage the Algarvensis Territory‘s candidacy for UNESCO World Geopark, was created this Monday, December 11.

According to its website, the UNESCO World Geopark concept is based on “a territorial area with well-defined limits which, having a geological heritage of great importance at a national and international level, combines a geoconservation strategy and a set of environmental education and awareness policies to promote sustainable socio-economic development based on geotourism activities, involving local communities, contributing to the appreciation and promotion of local products”.

Three years ago, the institutions mentioned above signed a memorandum of understanding to formalise the Algarvensis Territory’s (an area spread across the three municipalities) application to the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network.

Now formally constituted, the Associação Geoparque Algarvensis will establish its management unit, which will be responsible for the UNESCO application over the next year, and hold its first general assembly.

Escritura da Associação ALGARVENSIS Loulé-Silves-Albufeira (2)

For the mayor of Loulé, Vítor Aleixo, this is “a happy day on a journey that still has a long road ahead”. He also guaranteed that “Given the characteristics, political resolve and density of the work already carried out, which will constitute the content of the candidacy to be presented in Paris at the UNESCO headquarters, I have no doubt that it will be crowned with success”.

Silves Mayor Rosa Palma highlighted that this project doesn’t only involve the scientific area, insisting it is only possible with the involvement of people. “We have relied on the excellent work of the University of Algarve in all aspects (Paleontology, Geology, Botany…). But the project can only be achieved if it identifies more the location it is part of, and if people start promoting what their territory is, developing a feeling of belonging within themselves.”

José Carlos Rolo, mayor of Albufeira, highlighted the added value of the aspiring Geopark: “It will diversify the tourist offer, with a focus on scientific tourism, as a way of breaking seasonality a little, as it isn’t about “sun and beach” and, as such, can complement our main activity a little. In addition, it will develop everything that is part of our communities, such as crafts, gastronomy and other activities that can be included in this grand project”.

For his part, UALG rector Paulo Águas expressed his joy in being part of the constitution of this Association. “Our teachers and researchers are strongly committed to this project, a project that transforms the territory, clearly aligned with sustainability challenges, and that is also why we are here. The University of the Algarve was created and exists to cooperate with regional and local entities to build a better Algarve and a better future for our people”, highlighted the academic.

With one of the UNESCO Geopark’s main goals being the provision of integrated sustainable development for the direct benefit of its local population, the Associação Geoparque Algarvensis will prioritise “The development of activities linked to creative tourism, raising awareness of climate change and the preservation of natural values, highlighting gastronomy and local products, and cultural and intangible heritage, among other aspects”.

As a result, the Association is now actively looking for partners in the geoeducation, geoconservation and geotourism areas. “Entities that operate in this territory, in the most diverse areas of activity, and that have, in their culture, criteria of responsibility towards the environment, cultural heritage, and appreciation of endogenous resources, can now present their partnership proposals and projects to contribute towards a greater socio-economic stimulation of the territory”, says the Association.