For some reason best known to itself, Benfeita – a relatively isolated village in the mountains of the Serra do Açor, Central Portugal – has become a magnet to ‘eco-immigrants’ from all over Europe and the rest of the world over the last decade. The community is of the default, unintentional variety. There’s nothing remotely ‘organised’ about it, unless that organisation is operating at some higher level we can’t perceive, so we have no shared ideology, culture, dogma or rules. What unites us is the desire to live a substantially more sustainable, environmentally-friendly and humane life as part of a real and largely autonomous community.
In October 2017, the entire community and the valleys in which we are living was decimated by the largest wildfire in Portugal’s history. It destroyed over 2,000 square kilometers of land in less than 24 hours. 22 people in these valleys lost their homes. 2 people lost their lives. The surrounding ecosystem, already degraded and impoverished by decades of rural depopulation, neglect and inappropriate monocultures of pine and eucalyptus trees, is a disaster zone.
This brought things home in a big way. It has galvanised us into more directed and concerted action, even while many are still trying to put their lives back together again. Several community initiatives have taken root. Replanting and regeneration work has begun.
We are currently in the process of formalising an umbrella organisation to take forward the vision of an ‘ecozone’ for these valleys. This vision, based on the unique topography and population dynamics of the area, is for the ecozone to become a nationally and internationally-recognised ‘living laboratory’ where sustainable and regenerative initiatives (individual and collective; natural, technological and social) originating with and developed by the area’s diverse community, can be designed, evolved, trialled, studied, prototyped and disseminated within the surrounding bioregion and beyond.
Membership & Visitors
- Current members: 200
- Open to new members
- Open to visitors
This is NOT an intentional community so the way to join is just like any other place in Europe - come here and find somewhere to rent or buy or stay at or work at. People have come here with money to buy and people have come here with nothing but the desire to be part of this community. They have volunteered and house-sat and eventually found a way to their own piece of land. Where there's a will, there's a way ...
Several projects within the area host volunteers. There is no central organisation of volunteers within the community so you will need to apply to individual projects. Search for "Benfeita" in any of the volunteering sites or apply to the affiliated projects listed on this site. It's possible to visit some of these projects as well.