Project 'Lousada + VERDE: restauro ecológico em prol da comunidade' (Greener Lousada: ecological restoration for the community) from VERDE Association, in Lousada, is the big winner of REN's AGIR Award, whose ninth edition is dedicated to the promotion of the environment, biodiversity, and the fight against climate change. 'Lousada + VERDE' seeks to foster the region of Lousada, giving value to ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration, and implementing agroforestry practices that boost the income of local landowners. Vertigem Association, from Porto de Mós, came in second place with the creation of the Bee and Honey Interpretation Centre in Serra de Aires and Candeeiros, while the Rizoma Cooperative, with its Community Grocery in Lisbon, was third.
The interventions VERDE Association has been carrying out in abandoned land, through its carbon offsetting solution, 'Carbono Diverso', were what led to the emergence of 'Lousada + VERDE'. The project's goal is for the association to intervene in private properties, controlling invasive species, planting native trees and shrubs, and constructing dead-wood structures and ponds, which are crucial in increasing the biodiversity of areas that already have some nature conservation value due to the presence of large trees.
With these measures, a model will be tested, which combines the appreciation of an ecosystem's services and (agro)forestry management practices that enhance biodiversity. The sale of agroforestry products will also help in the creation of revenue to enable making the project self-sustaining. It is also VERDE's aim to promote volunteering and environmental education actions, which will involve hundreds of citizens during the next year.
For João Soutinho of VERDE, 'REN's AGIR Award will enable us to have more means, more equipment, and to study potential value chains of secondary products that may come out of this forest - acorns, strawberry tree, honey, mushrooms, and others. With this project's implementation, it will be possible to foster environmental education and visitation activities, thus developing a laboratory through which the native forest can be given value, making it an asset of the territory.'
Institutions from Porto de Mós and Lisbon also rewarded
Vertigem Association, based in Portela Vale de Espinho, Porto de Mós, has as its main goal the appreciation of cultural and natural heritage and of biodiversity. The Bee and Honey Interpretation Centre (Centro de Interpretação da Abelha e do Mel - CIAM) will be set up precisely to engage the community and local beekeepers, and to provide education regarding the bee society.
The creation of CIAM in an old school, in the Serra de Aires and Candeeiros, is the most visible action of Vertigem Association's project, placed second in the AGIR Award. However, the Association also seeks to create opportunities for the beekeeping and tourism sector, increase environmental protection and economic growth, and develop new employment opportunities. For that, it plans to involve over 5,000 people in the first three years in training events, environmental education activities, and visits to the CIAM.
According to the project, CIAM will become a hub for bringing together and stimulate beekeeping and tourism close to nature in the municipality of Porto de Mós. The creation of a promotional website with links to local, regional, and national tourism is also planned, and will contribute to this objective.
For Rui Cordeiro, president of Vertigem, 'with REN' AGIR award it will be possible to involve other entities in the restoration of an old primary school, which we will equip with materials for environmental education. A centre will also be created to bring together local beekeepers for training, as well as a space devoted to receiving schools for environmental education. We will also enhance beekeeping and beekeeping tourism, adding value to the region and income to beekeepers. We want to implement environmentally friendly beekeeping, with an approach supported by beekeeping techniques centred on biodynamic beekeeping that respects the colony's natural integrity'.
Third place was awarded to Rizoma Cooperativa Integral's Community Grocery project, based in Lisbon. The grocery store, which is non-profit and accessible for purchases only to cooperative members, seeks to be a step towards combating climate change by fostering a change in the food system. It is also an investment in the community and in the local economy by supporting local producers and encouraging entrepreneurship.
At Rizoma, cooperative members have access to healthy products, mostly local, seasonal, and with low ecological impact, at fair prices for those who produce them and affordable for those who consume them - the price tags show the amount paid to the producer, VAT, and the cooperative's margin on the product. Based on a scalable and replicable model, already successfully carried out in other countries, the community grocery is a first in Portugal and presents a response that cuts through several systemic problems related to consumption. The AGIR award will enable the grocery-coffee shop to expand and promote the attraction of new members and the involvement of local producers.
According to Camila Lobo, from Rizoma Coop, 'sustainability is embedded in the circularity of the shop's operation: through the choice of products with low environmental impact, the reuse of packaging, and the reuse of food waste to create products and compost. The AGIR Award will have an important impact on the community as it will enable us to purchase new equipment and improve the grocery's management system, thus continuing to promote sustainable consumption and meet the needs of the community.'
The 2023 AGIR Award will be dedicated to the Promotion of Sustainable Development, in line with the 2030 Agenda, created in 2015 by the United Nations, and which REN incorporates in its sustainability strategy. The 2030 Agenda contains 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets, addresses multiple dimensions of sustainable development (social, economic, environmental), and seeks to be a common vision for humanity, a contract between world leaders and peoples, for the promotion of peace, justice, and effective institutions. In the 2023 edition of the AGIR Award, REN will support projects that promote sustainable solutions to meet one or more of the SDGs and their respective targets, thus promoting sustainable development.
Find out more about the winning projects: