Sunday, 15 April 2007

Farmers, sweet farmers...

In a study in a village setting in Odemira farmers were asked to report about existing environmental problems. Out of 34 farmers, 4 refused answering because they said there were no environmental problems in Odemira!

Portuguese agricultural development in the 20th century

Varela (1992) points out how agriculture and rural areas in Portugal have undergone troubles and difficulties, since the very beginning of the construction of the Portuguese nation-state (12th century). There have been several attempts to colonize abandoned lands (Colonização interna) and to redistribute the land, in such a way that land tenure is conceded exclusively to whom would effectively cultivate it. However, those attempts have hardly ever been successfully implemented (Varela, 1992).

In 1925 a major project of expropriation to put the land into more productive use and to accommodate the population, that was crowded in some places, into rural areas, was launched (Varela, 1992). Although this project led to expropriation for “public utility” of large areas of land, it did not effectively contribute to the fixation of new populations in formerly extensively used areas. This might be explained by the fact that the ecological conditions of the land made it unsuitable for more intensive cultivation and the land units (lotes, glebas) conceded to new owners being too small to guranatee a living or to allow for savings to be made to invest into the land (Varela, 1992). The small size of the land units conceded to farmers additionally resulted in its inadequately intensive use, leading to its degradation, especially through soil erosion (Varela, 1992).

At the end of the 19th century and up to the 30’s of the 20th century, agricultural policies and interventions were largely focused on the South of Portugal (Varela, 1992). In 1929 the Campanha do Trigo (Wheat campaign) started, focusing on the Alentejo region. Varela (1992) says there were two illusions at play shaping that policy: first the illusion that there were large areas of productive land not being productively used; second, that the use of those lands could guarantee wheat self-sufficiency of the country. Investing into wheat production and protecting it from international competition, put Portuguese agriculture on a track that weakened its capacity to achieve competitive advantages in agricultural production in southern Portugal, years later, when the borders where opened to international trade (Tortella, 1994). The traditional Holm and Cork oak forests with the understorey used for livestock grazing appears to be, nowadays and from an ecological perspective, to be the most appropriate land use system in that region (Varela, 1992).

Portugal was under the dictatorial leadership of Antonio Oliveira de Salazar between 1932-1968, and dictatorship finished on 25th April 1974.The dictatorial regime of Salazar is one of those that lasted longest in 20th century Europe (Lewis, 1978). The existence of countless spies (bufos) (some sources believe 1 in 400 citizens were employed as spies) assured that in Portugal politics was not discussed for almost half a century (Gallagher, 1979) and collective-action and cooperation was reduced to a state-managed minimum.

In 1937 the Junta de Colonização Interna was created, with the aim of putting unproductive land into agricultural use or forestation. The Junta de Colonização Interna started a large forestation project ongoing throughout the decade of the 1940’s, accompanied by the expropriation of the Commons (baldios) from local communities and consequent hardship and rural exodus (Black, 1990). Before, the common lands had an essential contribution for the livelihoods of rural people, allowing the peasants to increase the productivity of their land above the limits of its productive capacity (Black, 1990). Pereira et al (2005) reported the saying “the commons belong to the poor”, showing how the resources of the commons have benefited the most needy and been used as a buffer to improve livelihood security among the poorest people. The expropriation of the commons had a particular negative impact on the rural population in northern and central Portugal (Varela, 1992).

The rural exodus resulting from reduced livelihood security as a consequence of the expropriation of the commons did not free the land for the establishment of larger, industrialized farms, because the emigrants in general did not sell their landholdings, mainly because of job insecurity abroad, because only part of the family migrated or because they envisioned returning (Black, 1990). The emigration of peasants had an important impact on the availability of farm labour, affecting land management practices in a way that negatively affected fertility of the land (Black, 1990).

Cabral (1986) sets 1962 as the year when Portuguese policies underwent a major change, away from aiming at national food self-sufficiency. In 1962 small-scale economically non-viable farms ceased to be seen as valuable and it was defended that they should not be subject to special protectionism, but rather be integrated into the industrializing farming sector.

Until 1986 and the introduction of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) no separate agricultural policy was in place in Portugal, but agriculture was considered within the Planos de Fomento. Between 1953 and 1964 there were two national policy plans, considering agricultural development divided into 3 main areas: the development of large-scale irrigation systems, internal colonization and forestation. In these plans the idea that the Commons could be used for a productive agriculture had been almost superseded, however, the intent remained to make the best use of wastelands: now the use of the commons and sand plains of the litoral was prioritized. The focus to increase the productivity of these areas was forestation, rather than agriculture (Varela, 1992). Colonization remained an aim for the areas undergoing the development of hydraulic infrastructure.

Under the regime of Salazar, Portugal was kept away from industrial modernization, in the form it was occurring elsewhere in Europe, and this resulted in the preservation of many features of an agrarian society up to the 80’s. Salazar is said to have resisted for purpose to the expansion of industry in Portugal, for fear of growing opposition to his regime, which could have resulted from an increasing industrial proletariat (Gallagher, 1979). In the 1970’s rural families generally divided their labour force between small-holding agriculture and temporary wage-labour (Riegelhaupt, 1973), because of the difficulty of basing livelihoods on agriculture alone (due to restraints in ecological conditions and limited access to land). This provided cheap seasonal labour for public construction work (Obras públicas) and an industry (Varela, 1992) whose comparative advantage was based mainly on the availability of cheap labour (Riegelhaupt, 1973).

The third Plano de Fomento was never really implemented as a result of the oil crisis of the early 70’s and the change of the regime in 1974. After the revolution, in 1975, the access to the commons was restored (Black, 1990). Government changed 7 times in the two years after the revolution (1974 and 1975), mainly because the MFA (Movimento de Forças Armadas), which had led the revolution, did not have clear goals and was not well organized (Carrington and Lima, 1996).

Nowadays, I would say, the Portuguese Ministry of Agriculture, amazes through its realtive honesty, at least in comparison with its European counterparts.
Regarding almost all areas of intervention under the adopted agriculture and rural development plan for the period 2000-2006, the Ministry of Agriculture considers its own achievements insufficient if not unsuccessful (MADRP, 2007).

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Building up the Portuguese landscape / Ois Zubetoniert

"Within the EU, Portugal is second only to Luxembourg in per capita consumption of cement, with this value being double the EU average and 2.5 times the value for the USA (Vieira 2003). This gives the sector disproportionate political power, allowing it to influence legislation on land planning and to lead the government to invest heavily in infrastructure. " (Millenium Ecosystem Assesment, 2004)

"Kommt die holde Fruehlingszeit,
kriegt Wald und Wiese ein neues Kleid,
zing zang zing diholleradiaho, diholleradiaho...

Nach dem esrten Spatenstich,
langt man an den Kopf und kratzt man sich,
zing zang zing, diholleradiaho...

Fangen die Voegel zum Nestbauen an,
kommt auch schon bald der erste Kran
zing zang zing, diholleradiaho, diholleradiaho...

wenn die Lerche trililiert
ist das Feld schon betoniert.
zing zang zing, diholleradiaho, dihollerdiaho...

Ja braucht's denn des, wos ma do baut?
do wird doch nur unser Geld naus'ghaut.
Zwing, zwang zwing, diholleradio..."

(Polt, nach dem Gedaechtniss)
Standing for "when spring comes and birds sing construction work starts on the field. Suddenly where there was a field there is only cement. You scratch your head. Do we need all this construction? Aren't they thrwoing away our money?") for those who speak German.

Erva Cidreira

Hoje a "Erva Cidreira" dos Uxukalhus esta me a fazer perder os sentidos. Puro mosh.(
Felizmente nao esta mais ninguem no gabinete...
Podes ouvir tambem em

Friday, 13 April 2007

Desenvolvimento & progresso para Pt

Reorganização da rede escolar
4 de Set de 2006

Para proporcionar melhores condições de aprendizagem no 1.º ciclo, é necessário proceder ao reordenamento da rede escolar, encontrando soluções para o encerramento dos estabelecimentos escolares situados em zonas isoladas, com poucos alunos e falta de recursos, onde as taxas de aproveitamento dos alunos são sistematicamente baixas.

No âmbito do reordenamento da rede escolar do 1.º ciclo, a lista de escolas a encerrar inclui 1418 estabelecimentos, sendo assegurada a transferência dos alunos para 800 novas escolas acolhedoras mais bem apetrechadas e dimensionadas.
Nestas escolas, além de terem mais hipóteses de socialização com outras crianças da mesma idade, os alunos poderão ter acesso a mais e melhores recursos, beneficiando de refeições escolares, de bibliotecas com livros adequados à sua faixa etária e, ainda, de actividades como o Inglês, a actividade física e desportiva, o ensino da música, a iniciação a outras actividades artísticas e a Informática.
Para assegurar o transporte dos alunos dos estabelecimentos que vão encerrar para as novas escolas acolhedoras, o Ministério da Educação (ME) garante a comparticipação integral dos custos das autarquias, canalizando para o efeito dez milhões de euros.
O ME assumiu o compromisso de comparticipar as obras de melhoria dos edifícios e equipamentos realizadas pelas autarquias nas escolas acolhedoras, procedendo à transferência de 2,5 milhões de euros para os municípios. Estas obras de melhoramento são fundamentais para assegurar melhores condições nas escolas acolhedoras, enquanto não são construídos os novos centros escolares, dependentes das verbas negociadas no âmbito do futuro Quadro de Referência Estratégica Nacional (2007/2013).

Nem uma palavra sobre o motivo de reduzir as despesas com pequenas escolas. Isto ainda e normal?!

Bange Frage

Ein Mensch, unglaeubig und verrucht,
Dummdreist das Ewige verflucht.
Was aber wird ihm wohl begegnen,
Muss er das Zeitliche einst sgenen?

Eugen Roth

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Factos feitos pela fe

Warning: this is slightly agressive, if you are too sensible keep apart.

“A ciência não presta” diria o avô Mário.

Então não é que passa de um artigo cientifíco para outro que a “população agrícola existia em numero excessivo” em Portugal aquando da sua intergração Europeia… Sem referência ao porque do “excessivo”. Qual é a lógica que faz com que seja “demais”?

Vejam esta citação:
“It seems obvious that, to break the vicious circle which kept the majority of the population tied to the soil at very low subsistence levels (and hindered economic growth), some sort of shock was needed, either of the “pull” or of the “push” variety, This means that the population had either to be lured out of archaic agriculture by urban industry and commerce, or propelled out of agriculture by deteriorating living conditions.” (Tortella, 1994).

É absolutamente incrível como a orientação ideológica “informa” o conhecimento científico, as opiniões e factos comumente aceites. É vergonhoso!

O que é vergonhoso?
O facto que cientistas, investigadores, políticos continuam a fazer transparecer para a opinião pública que têm “factos”, “verdades”, quando, muitas vezes, na verdade têm...
... opiniões?

E assim ganham a opinião pública para a ideia de que a gestão por quem percebe é a melhor maneira de encarar os problemas da sociedade. Isto é perigoso. Poe em causa a democracia, na medida em que esvazia o sentido da participação pública de um público que é feito acreditar que não sabe ou que haja quem saiba melhor...

Pior, os académicos, consultores, senhores doutores, e decisores políticos (desculpo-me a agressividade), eles próprios crêem (pelo menos em parte) que a gestão top-down é o que esta a dar, é a única maneira de as coisas funcionarem. Claro está que mudar de opinão poria os numa situação muito vulnerável.

O que de infernal pode ser feito para expôr a superficialidade perigosa dos factos assumidos? Dizer: “isto aqui, meu caro, não está baseado na realidade”, “pode, se faz favor, explicar os seus argumentos ou então alterar a sua opinião?” Mas quem revê artigos científicos antes de serem publicados? Académicos também com interesse em manter a sua própria existência e validade e que não se querem entregar a vulnerabilidade de questionar a sua mundividência.

E o mundo da ciência é tão pequeno em cada área afinal, que desafiar quem se pode ver na próxima conferência ou quem possa vir a corrigir os nossos artigos é quase perigoso para a própria carreira.

Numa linha de investigacao que eu ca sei parece ter se formado um complot: nos apoiamos nos uns aos outros e encobrimos e não admitimos perante terceiros que o nosso trabalho não tem sentido nenhum. Tem os seus proprios jornais, revistos por eles proprios e conseguem drenar amplos fundos para eles.

Isto aqui poderia ir para o blog do nosso amigo “o contestatário”, não?...

"Positivism is dead. By now it has gone off and is beginning to smell." (Byrne, 1998)

"The positivist 'standard view' of science has been comprehensively demolished, although its ghostly presence lingers on in the views and practices of many quantitatively inclined researchers" (Robson, 2002).

Wednesday, 11 April 2007


Bús az ember, ha nincs kedve;
Borba van a kedvmag vetve.
Hát azért iszunk mi mindig,
Meg sem állunk tíz-husz pintig.

Van minékünk pincénk, házunk,
Mindazáltal itt tanyázunk,
Itt tanyázunk naphosszában,
Itt tanyázunk a kocsmában.

Itt tanyázunk, mert van nékünk,
Mert van nékünk feleségünk.
Nyelves, szájas mind az asszony;
Rá az ember hogy hallgasson?

Van minékünk egy kis pénzünk,
De a pénzre mi nem nézünk;
Úgyis holtig él az ember,
Költeni ha mer, ha nem mer.

Hát azért csak iddogálunk,
Míg fel nem kötik az állunk,
Iddogálunk naphosszában,
Iddogálunk a kocsmában.

Petofi Sandor

Traurig ist der Mensch, wenn er nicht lustig ist,
deshalb trinken wir immer, wir hören nicht auf bis 10-20 Becher
wir haben einen Keller, ( höchstwahrscheinlich Weinkeller) im Haus
wir bleiben trotzdem hier
wir bleiben hier den ganzen Tag
wir bleiben im Kocsma
wir sind hier, weil wir haben,
weil wir haben(Ehe)Frauen
böse Zunge haben alle Frauen,
wie könnten wir auf sie hören?
wir haben auch ein wenig Geld
auf das Geld achten wir nicht
so, oder so lebt der Mensch bis er stirbt
ob er Geld ausgibt, oder nicht.
Deshalb trinken wir weiter,
bis unser Kinn sich auftut
trinken wir den lieben Tag lang,
trinken wir im Kocsma.

Maria Faia?

Eu não sei como te chamas
Oh Maria Faia
nem que nome te hei-de eu pôr
Oh Maria Faia, oh Faia Maria

Cravo não que tu és rosa
Oh Maria Faia
Rosa não que tu és flor
Oh Maria Faia, oh Faia Maria

Não te quero chamar cravo
Oh Maria Faia
Que te estou a engrandecer
Oh Maria Faia, oh Faia Maria

Chamo-te antes espelho
Oh Maria Faia
Onde espero de me ver
Oh Maria Faia, oh Faia Maria

O meu amor abalou
Oh Maria Faia
Deu-me uma linda despedida
Oh Maria Faia, oh Faia Maria

Abarcou-me a mão direita
Oh Maria Faia
Adeus oh prenda querida
Oh Maria Faia, oh Faia Maria

Zeca Afonso

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Os Índios da Meia-Praia

Aldeia da Meia-Praia
Ali mesmo ao pé de Lagos
Vou fazer-te uma cantiga
Da melhor que sei e faço

De Monte-Gordo vieram
Alguns por seu próprio pé
Um chegou de bicicleta
Outro foi de marcha a ré

Quando os teus olhos tropeçam
No voo duma gaivota
Em vez de peixe vê peças
De ouro caindo na lota

Quem aqui vier morar
Não traga mesa nem cama
Com sete palmos de terra
Se constrói uma cabana

Tu trabalhas todo o ano
Na lota deixam-te mudo
Chupam-te até ao tutano
Chupam-te o couro cab'ludo

Quem dera que a gente tenha
De Agostinho a valentia
Para alimentar a sanha
De esganar a burguesia

Adeus disse a Monte-Gordo
(Nada o prende ao mal passado)
Mas nada o prende ao presente
Se só ele é o enganado

Oito mil horas contadas
Laboraram a preceito
Até que veio o primeiro
Documento autenticado

Eram mulheres e crianças
Cada um c'o seu tijolo
"Isto aqui era uma orquestra"
Quem diz o contrário é tolo

E se a má lingua não cessa
Eu daqui vivo não saia
Pois nada apaga a nobreza
Dos índios da Meia-Praia

Foi sempre a tua figura
Tubarão de mil aparas
Deixar tudo à dependura
Quando na presa reparas

Das eleições acabadas
Do resultado previsto
Saiu o que tendes visto
Muitas obras embargadas

Mas não por vontade própria
Porque a luta continua
Pois é dele a sua história
E o povo saiu à rua

Mandadores de alta finança
Fazem tudo andar pra trás
Dizem que o mundo só anda
Tendo à frente um capataz

E toca de papelada
No vaivém dos ministérios
Mas hão-de fugir aos berros
Inda a banda vai na estrada

Eram mulheres e crianças
Cada um c'o seu tijolo
"Isto aqui era uma orquestra"
Quem diz o contrário é tolo

Jose Afonso, tao actual... ainda e sempre...

Monday, 9 April 2007

Taraxacum officinalis, did you remember to leave a bit of sun in the sky?

Monday, 2 April 2007

Sekier & Zajezova

Gerga and Terka are the horses!

Society for Harmonious Living - does this sound scary to you?
To me it sounded like the chant of birds and that's why I decided to go and see what it was. Actually I should tell you in advance that I knew it is an ecovillage in Slovakia, in the Javorie mountains, aimed at voluntary simplicity.

After a night without sleep, or , let's say, a superficial sleep on the floor of Stansted airport only, I arrived in Zvolen not too late. But it was already dark. Janka Jesenskeho was the address of my youth hostel. Fine, that must be one of the main streets according to the city map. But I forgot about what a main street looks like in eastern Europe and that the backyard behind the backyard, behind the parking area, through gravel and mud, behind the garbage bins could be the one and only official entrance to a hostel. It was already night, as I mentioned, and my Slovakian had not reached the stage of being able to say "Nerozumiem Slovensky" (I don't understand Slovakian). So I faced the wired situation of 2 ladys asking ME for the way!!! Finally I found a middle aged gentleman who looked not very, very inspiring, but I took my heart in hands and pointed at the map and the name of the hostel and looked at him with a questioning face like a dog that hasn't understood the instructions of its owner. The man almost took my hand, at least he took my luggage, and went with it through the dark, behind the houses, away from the lighted road, and, as I say, to the backyard, behind the backyard, behind the parking area, through gravel and mud, behind the garbage bins, to the official entrance of the hostel.

Saved! I laid on the bed and forgot about the world. Next day, I knew, the adventures were to be continued. The hostel was making that special offer of giving away an outdated toothpaste which I managed to refuse, despite of my zero Slovakian skills.

Next day I went to the bus stop and waited for that daily bus to Kralová. Finally it came and I somehow got the ticket to the right place but the driver was very suspicious what I was going to do there in the middle of nowhere. So he wanted to expulse me of the bus next to a hotel and I had to fight and resist to coninue on the bus until the last station, where normally only the gipsys go out, for the last bus stop of that line is close to an important gipsy settlement. When I got out of the bus the driver caught my arm and said I should travel with him back to Zvolen I was certainly at the wrong place. I resisted again and looked up my map where to go, now that I was 3000Km from home and 1500Km from the next human being I know. There it was written I should go left. But, where, in the name of God, is left in the middle of nowhere?! Fortunately there were all the gypsies throwing out and crying and hitting each other and I kindly showed them my map. One of them came close and tried to understand the map. Another came, took the map and was about to scratch it: what the hell was the one gipsy informing a non gipsy about whatsoever? But the first gipsy somehow calmed the other and pointed into one direction.

I started the journey along the meadow and found, in fact, a little sign saying "Sekier". It was extremely foggy and I knew that I had to walk for about an hour through woods and meadows through the hills until reaching a wooden pole close to which the farm Sekier is. I had no idea what a wooden pole extactly is and was looking at all sorts of wooden stuff with much attention. I was very glad that the sounds of the screaming gipsys started to fade in the distance and that there was apparently no gipsy trying to go my way. It was about 15h when the light started to fade into the famous luzcu-fuzcu and I saw somehting wooden and tall and...finally a house down in the valley.

I went to the house and someone opened the door. They knew I was arriving today but didn't pay much attention to that fact. Fortunately there was Evellyn from Swiss and she was glad to be able to speak her mother thongue and therfore showed me around. In the living-room-kitchen there were all sorts of strange guys, it was extremely dirty and the rock music was so loud that I couldn't understand the names of the people.

Well, I stood for almost 3 weeks there. On the first evening no one directed me a word and the music was so loud that no one could speak. I was tired and asked where I could sleep. Wherever I want. Fine. This is especially useful information when you don't know the place and have no idea at the side of whom you will wake up when you choose to lay down on a certain matress...

The first days I helped with making "God damn plum jam". There was a little orchard with many, many late Plum trees. We took Matus' home and shaked the trees, so that the plums fell right on the tarpauline that constitutes Matus' summer house. Then we took the kernels out and obtained about 50L of smashed plums, that we had to cook for almsot 2 days, stirring all the time. The fireplace was in the open, it was very foggy and becoming cold and sometimes it rained. And there we were, in turns, alone until late in the dark, stirring the big pot and maybe singing.

The fantastic spinning and knitting course!

Other things I did there were washing the kitchen towels, helping to repaint the kitchen, harvesting Topinamburi (Jerusalem Artichockes), drying apples, drinking tea and eating Petos' excellent vegan Gulash, and reading Whiteheads book on permaculture in the evenings. I met excellent people as well, whom I hope to meet again some day... One week-end there was this course on working with wool and I became passionate about spinning and finally learned more or less how to make felt! Unfortunately I left before the exciting course on "How to celebrate a proper Christmas", that was supposed to "teach" the traditional way of celebrating Christmas, without the habitual orgy of consumption.

So, what is Sekier all about? It is a farm where people interested in a simple life on the land can try it! It is part of the Society for Harmonious Living in the ecovillage Zajezova, where they have also a training centre for rural and natural skills (Polomy), a recycling centre, a food co-op, several self-built houses, and always someone willing to talk about his experiences of the Good Life.

If you want to know more or to visit this great place:

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Recent dietary changes in Portugal

The Mediterranean diet is said to be so healthy... but it is changing, and soon we will have the same obesity problems in Portugal as they have in the USA and the UK...

And still people tell me "You are vegetarian? You must be very carefull to have a balanced diet". Being vegetarian is not equivalent to having a balanced diet, sure, but eating meat isn't a precodnition or a synonym of balanced diet either!

A study by INE (2006) comparing per capita food intake between 1990 and 2003 revealed that the consumption of meat and dairy products increased significantly, while Portuguese diet is now deficient in fruits, vegetables and pulses. The importance of cereals in the diet increased at the expense of potatoes and other tubercles. Potato consumption decreased 37% and was substituted mainly by rice and pasta (refined stuff with little nutritional value).

The Portuguese consume now 3 times more proteins derived from meat, fish and eggs than the daily recommended guideline, while the amount of vegetables corresponds only to about half of the recommended amount.

The excessive meat consumption is especially worrying because meat production consumes so much energy and produces so much environmental degradation and animal suffering (industrial meat production). Watch

The amount of meat consumed increased especially regarding pork (61% increase in daily per capita consumption) and poultry (45% increases). The amount of dairy products in the diet increased as well in the period between 1990 and 2003.

The overall consumption of alcoholic beverages decreased, because wine consumption diminished by 25% (less children may be fed with sopa de cavalo cansado/"soup of the tired horse" now, which is positive). The consumption of refrigerants and juices increased to 29% of daily liquid intake. Bottled water consumption increased 123% and consumption of refrigerants increased 89% (Coke will have it's share...).

Caloric intake reached 3793 Kcal per day in 2003, an increase by 6% in relation to 1990, this exceeds the recomended amount of energy intake, while daily energy expenditure certainly decreased during the last decade, as we are becoming increasingly sedentary skyscrap-cavern dwellers.

The diet related health epidemic is underway! Bon apetit...

Data from: "Balança alimentar Portuguesa" (2006)

À propos April

Wenn der Wind weht im April
liege ich auf den Winden.
Weiss nicht was ich suchen will,
weiss nicht ob ich's finde.

Ohne Leben moechte ich sein,
ohne, ohne Liebe.
Denn du laesst mich so allein,
ohne Leben moecht' ich sein.

Peter Hacks
in "Der Schuhu und die Fliegende Prinzessin"