The ‘Gado Sapador' project, from Gardunha 21 Development Agency, Fundão, won the fifth edition of REN's AGIR Prize, which this year is dedicated to the topic of natural heritage preservation. To defend and foster the surveillance of the forest against fires, by using flocks of sheep or goats managed by shepherds, is the motto of a self-sustaining project, which will also enable generating funds with the marketing of milk, cheese and meat coming from the herds.
Serra da Gardunha is characterized by a large area of wasteland at risk of abandonment, boosting the danger of fires. This is where the ‘Gado Sapador' initiative is developed, seeking to prevent fires via grazing. Thus, the forest's scrub clearing is done by flocks of two of the region's native species - the Charnequeira Beiroa goat and the Churra do Campo sheep - which, by feeding and stomping on the grassland, control the combustion elements and create conditions for the natural reproduction of two native species (the sweet chestnut and the oak), which work as physical barriers to the progression of the fires. On the other hand, the presence of shepherds managing the flocks promotes surveillance and faster detection in case of fire.
The ‘Gado Sapador' project will also enable generating jobs via, for example, the hiring of shepherds and is a factor of social and economic development, since it involves multiple regional institutions which are the project's partners, namely the City Council of Fundão; the Parish Council of Souto da Casa; Clube de Produtores do Fundão (Fundão's Producers Club); Associação de Caça e Pesca do Souto da Casa (Souto da Casa's Hunting and Fishing Association); Associação de Queijeiros da Soalheira (Soalheira's Cheesemakers Association) and Associação de Defesa Sanitária da Cova da Beira (Cova da Beira's Health Defence Association).
Ana Cunha, from Gardunha 21 Development Agency's Director Council, emphasizes that the AGIR Prize 'awards the merit of the ‘Gado Sapador' project and is the national recognition of the relaunch of an ancestral practice - pastoralism - as one of the solutions to preserve forest and prevent fires. This is why this project has all the conditions to be extended to the rest of the country'.
Second Prize for environmental promotion initiative in Braga
The ‘Encosta do Sol' project, developed by Bonus Itineris - Cooperativa de Qualificação Turística e Ambiental (Cooperative for the Qualification of Tourism and Environment), from the Braga municipality, was honoured with the second prize in this fifth edition of REN's AGIR Prize. With this project, Bonus Itineris seeks to establish an ecological connection, in a natural context, between the city of Braga and Serra do Carvalho, through a green belt, between the city and the mountains - Monte de Vasconcelos and Monte Pedroso - adding environmental, asset and landscape value to its contributions. The initiative seeks to improve accessibility between the urban area and the natural surroundings, on foot or by bike.
Third place for a project of women defending the Sado Estuary
The third prize in the fifth edition of the AGIR Prize was awarded to the ‘Guardiãs do Mar' (Guardians of the Sea) project, developed by Ocean Alive - Cooperativa para a educação criativa marinha (Cooperative for creative marine education), in Tróia, Setúbal. Through the involvement of women from the fishing community, called ‘Guardiãs do Mar', the project seeks to protect the Marine Prairies in the Sado estuary, which have been the target of destruction in the past 20 years and are one of the main biodiversity nurseries in the country.
Next year, REN will promote the sixth edition of AGIR Prize, with the topic of 'Fight against school leaving and promotion of academic success'.
About the Agir Prize:
The AGIR Prize is part of the REN's policy of Community Involvement and Social Innovation. Every year, the AGIR Prize chooses an area of social intervention and awards three projects. The most recent editions were dedicated to the topics of ‘Labour Inclusion of People with Disabilities' (2017); ‘Fighting Poverty and Social Exclusion' (2016); ‘Active Aging' (2015) and ‘Job Creation' (2014).
The selection of the three best projects is the responsibility of REN, in partnership with STONE SOUP, which accompanies and monitors the use of the funds donated to each supported project, also evaluating the actual social impact of REN's support to each project. The winner of the first prize receives a monetary sum of thirty thousand euros, the second receives fifteen thousand euros and the third receives five thousand euros.