Querença: recovering the rural way of life

The Querença Project was started in 2011 in response to concerns from rural communities that previously cultivated regions in the Algarve were suffering substantial decline as land owners and residents were leaving the countryside. Much of the land was left in a poor condition due to neglect or abandonment and was close to being beyond effective recovery.
João Ministro, technical coordinator of the Querença Project, gave an interesting talk to members of the Estoi Palace Rotary Club and following the presentation it was time to take a walk in the countryside to find out more.
The initiative, in response to an increasingly familiar problem throughout the region – land neglect – was instigated by the University of the Algarve and supported by national and local governments and other organisations.
It was recognised that if improvement and renovation of rural areas were to be demonstrated then Querença was a good place to start and would show what was possible through volunteer help with qualified leadership. It was hoped that this would also be seen as an example to others of what is achievable.
One objective in Querença is to encourage the reintroduction and growth of native plants suited to the local environment and natural irrigation systems.
A further goal is to encourage sustainable organic cultivation and encourage traditional local trades. Additionally, arrangements are in place for private landowners to allow tenants to take over responsibility to farm the land.
Another benefit of this project is to provide valuable experience in nature conservation to young graduates and to create ongoing employment opportunities within the local community.
The Rotary group enjoyed lunch at Restaurante Querença with João Marum who specialises in landscape architecture and was one of the first original team members who launched the project. João showed a demonstration garden in the village centre which had been constructed using locally sourced materials and planted with vegetation representing the local areas.
The group then drove out to Fonte da Benémola, which is a protected nature reserve noted for the natural spring that continues to flow even in the hottest and driest weather and is the source of the river.
Guided by João, the Rotary group enjoyed a walk along the waterside, surrounded by the many indigenous plants and insects which are now in abundance.
The Rotary Club Estoi Palace International meets every Tuesday.
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