4 mins

Landscape transformation programme: An institutional innovation model

Miguel Freitas

The new European forest strategy reinforces a holistic view of forest spaces and ecosystems that is linked to the climate transition and the European biodiversity and bioeconomy strategies, extending objectives to new territorial, environmental, industrial and energy policies.

However, from an operational point of view, the common agricultural policy strategic plan has very limited flexibility, given the multiple objectives imposed on this instrument and the negotiating strength of the agricultural dimension. The Recovery and Resilience Facility, despite being transitory, is really the novelty, and may be an opportunity to strengthen forest investment.

The Portuguese forest coexists with two main phenomena - rural fires and desertification processes - resulting in the loss of ecological, landscape, economic and social values. Investment levels have been insufficient, recovery rates are much slower than degradation rates and the complexity of biophysical phenomena and the irreversible loss of natural capital are not taken into account.

The functional segmentation in land use, the concentration of exploration in high-productivity areas and the rejection of grazing have left extensive territories without active management and without critical mass for recovery.

In this context, with diverse territories marked by agroforestry landscapes in a 'state of need', under the constant threat of climate change and requiring a deep transformation towards resilience and economic viability, it is necessary to reinvent processes of land use and planning at the landscape scale. This promotes the joint management of private land and the active management of public and community areas, as well as the complementarity and multifunctionality of agroforestry systems and the prospect of a new urban-rural relationship, where an innovative approach and integrated territorial intervention programmes are essential, resulting in dedicated models of governance.

In this perspective, the landscape transformation programme, aimed at territories in which there is a high risk of fire, encourages various levels of intervention, from landscape design as a reference for a new economy in rural territories through grouped management models aimed at specific microterritorial contexts to fuel management around population centres and forest reparcelling, with a view to increasing the physical size of rural properties in the minifundia.

“The key to the success of the operat ions is the adhesion of the owners, and a context of trust and credibility must be created among the people”

The decentralisation of initiatives is essential, and priority must be given to the territories where the governance model seems more mature, where historical fire modelling shows that there is a greater probability of fires breaking out and where the risk of loss of forest heritage is higher.

The local governance of the projects differ with the context and the diversity of those involved present in the territory. It should have a bottom-up perspective, starting from the forestry or agroforestry integrator agents (formal or informal): forest intervention zones, wasteland management entities, producer associations or cooperatives, and forest management entities and units, among others, which are associated with each of the territories according to a coherent plan of territorial aggregation.

“The Portuguese forest coexist s with two main phenomena - rural fires and desertification processes - resulting in the loss of ecological, landscape, economic and social values”

The key to the success of the operations is the adhesion of the owners, and a context of trust and credibility must be created among the people. Among the adherents, there are those who want to transfer the management right to the management entity and those who want to keep the ability to decide.

The programme, targeted at forest territories from a multifunctional perspective, can have an extraordinary scope, as it opens perspectives for new interactions, at various levels, between different players in the territory, and should be read, above all, as a new model for institutional innovation in rural forest.

This new dimension of territorial governance should be expanded and articulated with common agricultural policy measures through an agriculture-climate programme, particularly for the payment of silvo-pastoral services and the promotion of improved biodiverse pasture areas, and with incentives for the use of agricultural, forest and wild resources with the potential to generate processing activities from natural-based options.

On the other hand, it is essential to revitalise urban centres from 'village condominiums-that are active in the definition of innovation projects in the smart village perspective and associated with a programme of energy communities, which allow the operation of proximity service networks and recover built heritage.

The programme should also be associated with the implementation of a strategy of testing and dissemination of knowledge, based on the promotion, installation and coordination of living labs and actions to promote entrepreneurship, socioeconomic growth' and business, to generate, from ecological transition models, start-ups, which are new companies and new organisations, or diversify and upgrade the activities developed by existing companies and institutions.

Miguel Freitas is Professor at the University of Algarve

This article appears in Rural areas: an eye to the future

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