Community-led initiatives in Portugal

From EcoliseWiki
Revision as of 18:39, 9 January 2019 by Ana Margarida Esteves (talk | contribs) (Solidarity Economy in Portugal)


In Portugal, a recent action-research project entitled CATALISE (Empowerment for Local Transition and Social Innovation, in english, 2014-2016) mapped and studied Portuguese local initiatives, their characteristics (e.g., members, focus, resources) as well as their drivers and enablers as well as their potencial [1]. It realised that many initiatives were created in 2011, crisis year coinciding with the Portuguese government financial request to IMF (International Monetary Fund) and majority of projects focused on Education and Community building, followed by sustainable agroforestry and farming. Most groups have a formal status, mainly associations, or are informal, being created mainly a group of citizens of a project out of an existing institution. Initiatives manage to involve, per year, an average of 1500 people (median of 108) with interest of the topic of focus of the initiative. Their source of financial resource is diverse and human resources are mainly volunteers (average of 22 and median of 10) and paid collaborators is nearly 5 times lower (6.5 in average and 2 of median). Nearly a quarter of initiatives have permanent partnerships with similar initiatives while 30% have it regularly and nearly 35% have very sporadically. The majority of CLI do have permanent or regular collaboration with national networks/entities or initiatives, informal groups/projects and local networks. The initiatives considered several priority practices on the social (heterogeneity of member integration and capacity building), economic (promote self sufficiency and the commons), political (participatory and sociocratic methodology), cultural (creativity and art), territorial (local partnerships), management (teamwork) and environmental (recycling and composting). In the short term (5 years) CLI tend to envision financial sustainability and more local implemented projects with direct benefit and involvement of local communities.

Transition in Portugal

Main page: Transition in Portugal

According to the official website of the national hub, the Portuguese Transition movement began in 2009 supported by the creation of an online social network called Transição e Permacultura em Portugal (Transition and Permaculture in Portugal). In April 2010 a national colloquim, Transição para uma Economia e Cultura Pós-Carbono (Transition for a Post-Carbon Economy and Growth) took place in Pombal, and the first Portguese initiatives registered on the Transition Network website that April (Parades) and May (Pombal). The national hub itself, Transição Portugal, emerged from a series of meetings that took place between November 2010 and September 2013. It publishes a quarterly digital newsletter on a quarterly basis, runs regular Transition Trainings conducted by a team of four recognised Portuguese trainers, and has about 30 initiatives registered.[2]As of June 2018, the Transition Network website listed 20 initiatives in Portugal.[3] The national RedeConvergir website listed 34 Transition initiatives as of September 2018.[4]

A detailed study of the national Transition movement by researchers at several Portuguese universities took place within the COMPOLIS project during 2013 and 2014.[5] Based on interviewees with 39 active participants in 14 Transition initiatives, researchers concluded that, despite an emphasis on community engagement in participants' stated motivation, and rhetorical commitment to inclusion and diversity, Transition initiatives tend to be dominated by quite a narrow range of highly educated people with previous history of involvement in environmental and/or social action. They suggest that, like the Transition movement as a whole, Portuguese initiatives would benefit from greater attention to issues of power and diversity within communities, and sustained use of more fully participatory methods to achieve wider engagement in the communities in which they work.[6]

In Portugal, two transition initiatives within the academia started almost simultaneously (2011) and went into hibernation also at the same time (around 2013). UMinho in Transition was initiated by professors, students and staff and through implementing a food garden at Minho University. This initiative intended to promote research, cultural intervention, solidarity and biosustainability. [7]. TU-FCUL is another transition initiative that started at the Faculty of Sciences, University of Lisbon, by the end of 2010. Their goal was to facilitate the Transition we are going through be bringing a more systemic perspective into the faculty, new topics (such as Community-led initiatives, Integral Theory, Nature-Based Design, among other), new ways of doing (such as Dragon Dreaming and Open Space technology) and most of all, Be the Change we wanna see in the World (initiating several local projects). This initiative transformed into a research theme on Integral Sustainability within a research group (CCIAM) from the Faculty, wrote several national and European projects applications on the role of CLIs on local transition, resilience and regeneration and ended up supporting the faculty role as ECOLISE co-founder in 2013.

Permaculture in Portugal

Main page: Permaculture in Portugal

Permaculture is well grounded in Portugal, being one of the countries with more projects per capita and land area according to Worldwide Permaculture Network [8]. While the national Rede Convergir map lists 46 self-registered permaculture projects as of late May 2018, [9] other websites as Helpx or Workaway registered activity of 49 and 182 permaculture related projects, respectively, from hosts seeking for support in 2018 all around the country. [10] [11] In 2009, it was create the online social network Transition and Permaculture in Portugal [12] to link each other knowledge and strengths. Although not having an oficial representative institution in Portugal, permaculture trainings (such as PDCs) started arriving in Portugal in the early 90's with a strong focus to support young neo-rural land managers to design their lands and land-based livelihoods [13]. Being spread throughout Portugal, most permaculture practitioners tend to be around 35 yrs old and located in rural areas and while only 10% of the projects have 100% of income from Permaculture related activities, nearly half does not have any income [13]. Nevertheless, trainings continue and from January to October 2018 more than 10 Permaculture Design Course occurred within the country. Furthermore, Portugal has successfully integrated permaculture and science research. In 2016, Faculty of Science, University of Lisbon (FCUL), together with Vale da Lama permaculture project hosted an international Permaculture Research Design course [14], with more than 40 people attending. Also, HortaFCUL [15] initiative has been already for more than 10 years to initiate students, and faculty members, to the permaculture knowledge and experience, and, through the Permaculture Living Laboratory project has been supporting master and doctoral thesis than want to do research on, for and as Permaculture.

Ecovillages in Portugal

Main page: Ecovillages in Portugal

The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) lists 19 projects in their database. This number is however only reflecting the projects that have registered themselves on the database. The ecovillage database contains ecovillage projects of all sizes and in all stages of development.[16]

The ecovillages in Portugal are organized in RIE, the Red Ibérica de Ecoaldeas which includes projects in Spain and Portugal. Since 1998, a summer meeting to connect like-minded people is being held annually – each year in a different ecovillage. The Foundational Assembly of the Iberian Ecovillage Network took place in Madrid in November 2011 and since then RIE is working towards the exchange of information and resources among the members of the network, other people or groups as well as spreading the idea of ecovillage and sustainable living. Today RIE is a thriving network with 12 ecovillage members, 5 project members and 13 collaborating members organized in sociocratic circular structure. RIE has initiated the incubator program to support the creating of new sustainably projects, communities, social enterprises and others.[17]

RIE is also a full member of GEN-Europe, the European branch of the Global Ecovillage Network.


Tamera, a community of around 200 people started in 1978, is “working towards autonomous decentralized models for a post-capitalist world“. [18] by creating a Healing Biotope around the following research areas:

  • "building community
  • healing sex, love and partnership
  • self-change and healing our consciousness
  • raising children
  • cooperation with animals and all beings
  • restoring nature
  • regenerative decentralized autonomy in water, energy and food
  • new economics."[19]
  • Community Energy in Portugal

    Main page: Community energy in Portugal

    Energy communities are rare in Portugal due to strong legislation barriers and lack of effective citizenship activism standing for energy decentralisation. Nowadays just one decentralised Community energy cooperative is operational.

    Coopérnico Cooperative Coopérnico Cooperative was created in 2013 by 16 citizens with concerns about sustainable development. The cooperative’s vision is to move forward to a fair and responsible renewable energy model with the mission of involving as much citizens and enterprises as possivel into the decentralized energy paradigm [20]. The community has implemented 16 projects successfully around the country until September 2018 and two are under implementation [21]

    Solidarity Economy in Portugal

    Main page: Solidarity economy in Portugal

    The SUSY report of 2015 on Social and Solidarity Economy notes a "rapid development of the SSE sector in Portugal" over that last 30 years and reports over 200,000 active supporters and several coordination initiatives. In 2010 the sector has been included as a component of the national budget and there is a Portuguese Network of Solidarity Economy (RPES).[22]

    Solidarity economy and transition initiatives are growing rapidly in Portugal and Europe. In Portugal there are more than 200 transition initiatives for sustainability mapped out by Rede Convergir [1], making the country one of the most dynamic in the mobilization of endogenous resources and in the formation of networks among grassroots initiatives.

    Community Food Production in Portugal

    Main page: Community Food Production in Portugal

    Community Gardens Community Gardens (“Hortas Comunitárias” in Portuguese) are usually implemented and promoted by municipalities not only with the aim of growing local food, but also for provide environmental education, improve citizens physical and mental health, and foster community building within neighbours. In 2017, ZERO NGO found community gardens in 59 (out of 135) municipalities, occupying an area of 69 hectares, and involving hundreds of citizens. Nearly 75% of all other municipalities were interested in supporting similar initiatives. Most community gardens are found in northern municipalities with an area of 3 to 7 hectares, at most. They have an occupancy of 73% and ¾ of the food harvest is consumed directly by the farmers and overstocks are distributed to the local community or addressed to social institutions. [23]

    Community-Supported Agriculture

    Self Sufficiency


    Collaboration with Local Government

    CATALISE project [1] realised that basically only formal initiatives do manage to communicate and collaborate with the local government. There is an acknowledgement that these initiatives are fundamental but are several obstacles that support and nurture local initiatives: distance between high levels policies and measures and local reality; centralisation and control by local government limits the initiative capacity to participate in local projects; frequent delay in response to the initiatives requests (meetings, documents, etc...), demanding burocratic work (e.g., proposals, requests, reports), bad communication between public services/departments and difficult access to resources (funds, spaces, etc...).

    Intersections and Interactions


    1. 1.0 1.1 Balsa, C., Albuquerque, C., Avelar, D., Penha-Lopes, G., Santos, P., Rocha, S., 2016. CATALISE Relatório Científico - Experimentação socioecológica: Novos caminhos para a participação no desenvolvimento local sustentável e integral. Lisbon, Portugal.
    2. Accessed Sept 4th 2018
    3. Accessed June 10th 2018.
    4. Accessed Sept 4th 2018.
    5. Accessed September 4th 2018.
    6. Maria Fernandes-Jesus, Anabela Carvalho, Lúcia Fernandes & Sofia Bento (2017) Community engagement in the Transition movement: views and practices in Portuguese initiatives, Local Environment 22:12, 1546-1562, DOI:10.1080/13549839.2017.1379477
    7., accessed on September 27th 2018)
    8., accessed on Jun 2015 (before changing project eligibility
    9. Rede Convergir. Accessed May 28th 2018.
    13. 13.0 13.1 Hugo Oliveira 2015. "Permaculture in Portugal: Socio- technological niches enhancing innovation and identity at the local grassroots level". Oral presentation. International Permaculture Convergence, London, UK
    16. Accessed on May 23rd 2018
    17. Accessed on May 25th 2018
    18. Accessed on June 4th 2018
    19. Accessed on June 4th 2018
    20., accessed on September 25th, 2018
    21., accessed on September 25th, 2018
    22. Troisi, R., di Sisto, M., Castagnola, A., 2018. Transformative economy: Challenges and limits of the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) in 55 territories in Europe and in the World. Sustainable and Solidarity Economy, Firenze.
    23., accessed on September 25th 2018