Frustrated after failing to receive support from a government that promised millions of euros in aid, a group of Monchique residents has banded together to create a crowdfunding campaign to help them build much-needed water tanks in their properties. The goal is to raise €22,215 by December 9.
In a nutshell, the water tanks would help keep the land around their properties well watered while also helping to protect themselves against the threat of more wildfires.
The project involves building four water tanks in four different properties owned by members of residents’ association ‘Monchique Alert – Mountains Free from Fire’.
Each tank will have the capacity to store 50,000 litres of water.
“The issue is that we weren’t able to receive any support from those huge sums that were revealed for Monchique and which we tried (to receive), and we thought was justified,” Ana Nunes, one of the people involved in the initiative, told Barlavento newspaper.
Ana, together with her partner Carlos Abafa, was one of the property owners who were told that they did not meet the criteria for government support.
“When they analysed our situation, they told us right away that for a small plot of land, with destroyed cork oak trees like ours, there was no available support,” she said.
“If we had eucalyptus trees and applied for support to remove them and plant cork oak trees, and also handed that job to a firm to plant everything in an organised fashion with a watering system, we would receive support. But since we already had a forest that was politically correct, with everything that should have been there and always was, there was no support,” she explained.
The retired teacher told Barlavento that most people who own properties in Monchique do not make much money from them but use cork oak trees as a ‘kind of additional source of income’ which justifies their choice to live in Monchique.
She criticised the way the funding programme for the victims of Monchique’s wildfire was devised, saying that it was “likely created by someone behind a desk” who has little knowledge of the reality of Monchique.
Jelly and Joop Boomsma, a Dutch couple who “fell in love with Monchique”, are among the other residents seeking support.
They spent over 10 years building a house in Arqueta, where they dreamt of spending their retirement, only to see it destroyed by the fire last year.
William Abrantes, a Portuguese emigrant living in France, had signed the deed for a property he purchased in Sítio do Cano just days before the fire broke out and “destroyed everything”.
As Ana Nunes told Barlavento, the number of people choosing to live in Monchique was on the rise. But as the area continues to be ravaged by wildfires, many are “questioning whether it makes sense to live someplace where everything will burn”.
The other resident seeking support is Nuno Carvalho, who bought a plot of land around six years ago in a remote area known as Balsa do Amieiro.
His house was completely destroyed by the flames and he is living temporarily in a trailer while he awaits a response from the Institute of Housing and Urban Rehabilitation.
“Last year was a tough blow. There were two options: giving up or coming back with even more motivation to fight against rural flight and desertification,” he told the paper.
Still, Carvalho says it is discouraging to see Monchique being used as something of a “eucalyptus monoculture”.
“There are property owners who look at the forest as a source of income. They don’t live here, they abandon it,” he explained, adding that this only makes the area more prone to disasters like last year’s wildfire.
“This doesn’t make people want to live here.”
If you are interested in helping these local residents build the much-needed water tanks, you can visit their online crowdfunding page which includes more information about their plans and the amount of money that has already been raised.
Original article written by Bruno Filipe Pires for Barlavento newspaper.