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“Back-to-Nature” campaigners win ‘roundtable’ debate over avocado monoculture

Concerned residents whose livelihoods and properties border one of Europe’s largest avocado plantations – just outside Barão de São João, Lagos – have won the ‘roundtable debate’ they are pushing for to discuss possible expansion plans (click here).

Presenting a meeting of Lagos Câmara on Wednesday with over 2,700 signatures gathered by an online petition headlined “No to giant Avocado Monocultures! Yes to a Healthy Algarve”, group Terra Saudável was given time to explain its fears.

Member Carl Zimmerling said, “my main question is how can the Câmara host a workshop on the environment, as it did on Monday, showing people how the issues of climate change and water shortages are going to affect Portugal and then allow huge monocultures like this that use water every single day when previously the area was one with ‘dry orchards’ that didn’t take any water other than what came naturally”.

Filomena Carmo, reading out a statement, said residents’ overriding concerns about the rolling plantation centre on the use of “large quantities of water and chemical products, among them glyphosate” (the controversial weedkiller that has seen several countries opt to either limit use or ban outright).

“We know that the project for increasing the size of this plantation has not yet been approved, thus we consider this the ideal moment to act, and stop its planning”, said Filomena Carmo, adding that locals are also keen to understand how the plantation is ‘regulated’.

Accepting the group’s bound-copy of the petition that remains online, Mayoress Joaquina Matos said it will now be sent to the region’s agricultural authority, and a debate “will go ahead.

“It is important that people are able to put their reservations”, she said – stressing that the plantation, per se, is “completely legal” and considered by the council to be the shape of “agriculture of the future”.

One grower from the area, Maria Elena Campos was unimpressed.

She told the Resident after the meeting: “Twenty years ago, I put in a project to grow bamboo. I wanted some agricultural support. I was refused, because they said bamboo was not ‘indigenous to the area’. Well, neither are avocados!”

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