(08 November 2019) – As part of AEIDL’s 30th anniversary celebrations, a field trip and a seminar were organised in early October in Alentejo, a region of southern Portugal that has undergone some rapid and drastic changes in recent years.
The reasons behind Alentejo’s recent meteoric rise are three-fold. First there was the construction of the Alqueva dam some 20 years ago which changed the face of Alentejo’s agricultural scene. Water was suddenly abundant and cheap for large areas of land which in turn made intensive agriculture possible in a region with a long tradition of extensive agriculture and a low population density (less than 20 inhabitants/km2).
The arrival of agribusiness companies has led to a 50 percent price soar for irrigated land in the past 5 years and vast numbers of immigrants from Asia and Eastern Europe arriving in Alentejo to fill the labour shortage.
Meanwhile, eco-tourism with its focus on culture and hiking has boomed in recent years, particularly on the coast, thanks to the creation of a natural park and the walking trails of Rota Vicentina, doubling the numbers of tourists visiting Alentejo in the last decade.
A seminar on the changing trends and the future of Alentejo, organised by the CARMEN association and AEIDL, brought together around 40 different local actors (representatives of regional and local authorities, project promoters, activists, citizens…) who truly care about the future of the region but seldom, if ever, get the chance to sit at the same table and discuss the challenges lying ahead.
The objective was to debate the options for the region which, everyone agrees, faces an uncertain and rather worrying future, despite the enormous opportunities that the building of large dams and the recent development of tourism have to offer.