Com interesse em realidades agrícolas diferentes, o Pierre Bourguignon, participante do programa One Year in Transition UK, acabou de voluntariar em 3 quintas diferentes em Portugal. Foi um prazer ajuda-lo a encontrar o seu caminho.

Perguntámo-lo partilhar as suas experiências num artigo. Por enquanto só em inglês…

Why did you decide to do 1YT?

When I quitted my job as a research worker in Geography in June 2015, I wanted to be implied in activities that were more connected with sustainable development. I was mainly attracted by food production and distribution, as it is essential for all of us. But I didn’t really know what I could do in this broad field. It is the reason I decided to start ‘One Year in Transition’ (1YT) in UK. The aim of this programme is to support young adults in their personal and professional choices, according to their own needs, to the characteristics of their communities and to life on Earth. The schedule of the year was made of four residential weeks and a constant support via Internet.

How did you decide to come to Portugal?

I spent the first part of my year by exploring projects around food. I went in UK during the summer 2015. I lived there in farms that were working around vegetables production for their own consumption, for selling on local markets and for teaching gardening to local people. It was very enriching to me. During October 2015, I went in a farm in France, where people were making breads and were implied in each step of the production: from cereals growing to the selling in organic markets. It was a pleasure to work with them, and to learn some basic skills for making bread. I then decided to travel to Portugal.

Visiting Portugal was a good way to be immerged in a Southern European country where communities are different from the North of Europe. I was also curious to discover the answers of Portuguese people to the financial crisis of this last decade. I wished to witness the richness of their alternative economy and their various transition initiatives.
My desire to come in Portugal was helped by being introduced to Annelieke van der Sluijs and Sara Rocha. Both of them explained me what I could expect from Portugal and from the Portuguese sustainable initiatives. They brought me into contact with interesting places that are producing and distributing food in a human- and environment-friendly way.

What kind of exchanges happened during your visit?

I travelled to Portugal in November 2015 and my first stop was an eco-village called ‘Ecoaldeia de Janas’. It was located near Sintra. My hosts lived in a small community (one family, one woman and a group of 6 or 8 volunteers). They were producing food, were building their own eco-constructions, were running workshops every weekend, and had a small shop of local products. I was amazed by the important amount of activities they were running in one place. The three people in charge were giving a lot of energy and creativity to make this project alive. And they were doing well, as a lot of local people were benefiting from their services. I was also inspired by their various ways of recycling materials in order to create useful things.

A loja da Eco-aldeia Janas

A loja da Eco-aldeia Janas

Then I went to Herdade do Freixo do Meio. It is a big organic farm where the fields and oak forest extend in the Alentejo region. This place is the result of the work of Alfredo Cunhal Sendim, a man with a strong social and ecological vision, and of his team. There they were producing a large variety of foods (vegetables, meat, acorns and transformed products) that were mainly sold in their shop in Lisbon. Agro-forestry, permaculture and biodynamic techniques were all experimented. They supplemented these activities with the running of an eco-camping, with the organization of events around nature and its benefits, with the production of cork, with the support of different projects on the farm land, with visits for your young children, etc. I really appreciated spending two weeks in this farm. I discovered many ways of being in sync with the environment in order to produce food, to create jobs and to make local people aware of the beauty of their area. I was also amazed of the family atmosphere that was present in this large-scale farm. All the meetings I did there clearly enriched me.

Agrofloresta na Herdade Freixo do Meio

Agrofloresta na Herdade Freixo do Meio

I finished my Portuguese trip by meeting Rita Magalhães. I spent one week in her place and the discussions I had with her were very interesting. Rita is a participant of the first edition of  ‘One Year in Transition’ in Portugal. I could exchange about the shape of the programme in her country and in UK. It appears that the Portuguese form was more focused on a limited area and adapted to local specificities. It implied that the students in 1YT Portugal already had projects rooted in their region and were aiming to fully develop them. In UK, the variety of nationality made the topics oriented to different profiles and contexts. I also made the most of my time with Rita for speaking about our visions of the world and how our own activities would be integrated in the transition movements. It is always great to listen to distinct views with similar values, and build new ideas with them. By meeting Rita, I also felt like I was progressively joining an international network of people wanting to actively impact their home area, as a brick in a world of changes.

What did you experience that is helpful for you as a person and your 1YT path?

Being enriched of all these experiences and meetings, I came back in Belgium in January 2016. My time in Portugal helped me to better define the activity I wanted to do in my home country. I decided to be implied in market gardening, as a way of growing vegetables for local community. I started a horticultural training that is lasting until December 2016. I love this job because it is close to my main interests: nature and people. It is replying to the need of relocating food production close to the consumers. I also think it is a good way to educate people about the relations that are linking us to our environment. For these reasons, I believe it is a key work for our future.

My Portugal experience definitely gave me beautiful inspirations for following my path. All the people that I met and the places that I visited are models from which I developed my thought. With the help of the programme ‘One Year in Transition’ in UK, I learnt to convert these ideas into concrete projects and implications. My next steps should be to acquire a small land on which I would grow vegetables; and to be integrated into a community of local people with who I could act for a transition towards a healthier world.