The region Alentejo, Portugal, is in an economical and ecological crisis. Alternatives are needed to create a way for people to return to the countryside, heal the landscape and create abundance in cooperation with nature. However, the legislation does not support alternatives – yet.
In close cooperation with its county municipality, Tamera has started the official process for a land use change. It could be a pioneer process for many other ecological initiatives – in particular for growing ecovillages. The planning group of Tamera is looking for assistance, networking or other resources and experiences. Petra Finkernagel, part of the planning team of Tamera, reports.
The Alentejo is a vast country, dry and hot in summer, empty and dusty between abandoned villages and farms. But whoever enters a place such as Tamera, sees the potential of the region: ponds and natural looking lakes are surrounded by lush terraces with vegetables and trees all year round. Solar systems, energy greenhouses and biogas systems show that energy autonomy is possible. Large and small adobe houses with grass roofs show that architecture can be sustainable and futuristic at the same time.
After 19 years of existence, Tamera, as a village and community, is coming of age. As the community has grown, it is creating plans and ideas of how to build the infrastructure of a healing biotope and model for a sustainable future. The community has entered a new planning phase, envisioning how Tamera will look in 15 years time.
Houses and work places are in need of further development. A transformational subsistence and regional autonomy such as we want to create, needs a different, ecological infrastructure, new forms of water management, and ecological buildings in cooperation with nature.
To be able to manifest such models in the rural areas of Portugal and other countries, an adjustment or redefinition of existing regulations for land use and development is needed. The current applicable Portuguese legislation – as most legislations – is not very supportive.
Every visitor sees that since Tamera arrived, nature is recovering and wildlife is coming back. But sadly, it is mainly the laws for nature protection that prevent us from going further.
Permaculture specialist and Tamera´s consultant, Sepp Holzer, reacted angrily when he was limited by the restrictions: “It is everywhere the same. Big dams and monocultures are allowed, but decentralized solutions are blocked. This is not a nature protection, but a desertification protection.”
It seems that more and more people in the local municipalities agree to this position and would love to empower alternative experiments.
We now have the opportunity to take a huge step. In close cooperation with the Municipality of our county in Odemira, we are applying for a change in the land use plan, with our regional authorities, that we call PIER (Plano de Intervenção em Espaço Rural).
After two years of preparation and struggle for finding the best way and the best partners, we are about to sign the contract between Tamera and the municipality. It is remarkable how much the local representatives favour our plans and want our success in the PIER process as much as we do!
For them, it is obvious that we are taking a pioneering step for other projects that also want to make a change and to end the crisis – both here in Portugal, and in other countries. Our commitment is to become an example that shows possible ways to a sustainable, abundant future in the seemingly poor, yet, oh so rich, Alentejo.
External experts from Universities, and Tamera ecologists are investigating how the human infrastructure, green building, sustainable energy production and increasing water retention landscape affect the development of our flora and fauna. With this in mind, we are internally developing plans and building models so that we can present our new vision of Tamera to the world.
We assume that through the PIER process, Tamera’s work will receive more prominent exposure to the Portuguese public. As a result, holistic management and ecological building may be positively incorporated into the political and legal landscape. There is also the possibility that our evolving Tamera model may be taken up, and documented by, the scientific community as a research project.
The estimated time for the PIER process is 24 months or more and the projected costs amount to about 150,000 €.
The funds are going to be used to pay for the obligatory environmental study; the external specialist team of architects and landscape planners, lawyer and planning engineer; the necessary professional homologous cartography; and any other related direct costs. Tamera has agreed to take on the costs for the internal planning and management .
To make this a successful process we are now asking for your assistance! We are looking for any kind of support, money or ideas on foundations or support programs that we can rely upon, as well as your professional knowhow and experience.
What is Tamera?
Tamera is a School and Research Station for Realistic Utopia. The project was founded in Germany in 1978. In 1995, it moved to Portugal. Today 170 people live and work on a property of 330 acres. The first founding thought was to develop a non-violent life model for human being, animal and nature. Soon it became clear that the healing of love and of human community had to be placed at the center of this work. Sexuality, love and partnership need to be freed from lying and fear, for there can be no peace on Earth so long as there is war in love.
The ecological and technological research issues of Tamera include the implementation of a retention landscape for the healing of water and nature, as well as a model for regional self-sufficiency in energy and food.
Through the Global Campus and the Terra Nova School we are working within a global network on the social, ecological and ethical foundations for a new Earth – Terra Nova.