A good many success stories in agriculture have begun with people’s hands in the soil. At CEARTE too, the Portuguese professional training centre for handicrafts and heritage (Centro de Formação Profissional para o Artesanato e Património) based in Coimbra, dexterity is required. Alongside traditional forms of handicraft, ecological farming is also taught.
Cultivation methods from the past (técnicas de cultivo do antigamente) is how trainer Joaquim de Silva (aged 45) describes the 50-hour course. Participants learn how to prepare the land for tilling without any chemicals at all, how to maintain it and keep it fertile, and how to care for plants. They learn what it means to take care of the rearing, health and well-being of animals in a way that is appropriate for each species, and how to deal with monitoring and certification procedures. Continuing from this in the 200-hour course, participants learn how to put theory into practice. Of course, organic farmers don’t develop as quickly as that, but, at CEARTE, curiosity is aroused and a sure touch is taught. The next course Theory of Ecological Farming takes place in Sesimbra from 1 to 31 August, and is even free of charge for professionally active people aged between 18 and 65.
Training course as an Organic Farmer
The College of Agriculture in Coimbra (Escola Superior Agrária de Coimbra – ESAC) is the only college in Portugal to have taught practice-related, ecological agriculture since 2005, as well as having an organically certified production area of twelve hectares. In two years, students there can learn the principles of ecological farming in the form of a specialist higher education course (Técnico Superior Profissional em Produção Agrícola Biológica); in a further three years during the day and, during the week, they can complete a bachelor’s degree in ecological agriculture (Licenciatura em Agricultura Biológica) and, in an additional two years, a master’s degree (Mestrado em Agricultura Biológica) at evening classes or on Friday afternoons and Saturdays. Students learn not only how to put what they have learned into practice, but also how to do the opposite, to develop, think through and implement business ideas from practice into theory.
You can apply for the 2018/2019 winter semester in the second phase up to 16 July and in the third phase up to 17 September 2018.
In Janas, learning never stops
In one of the many eco-villages in Portugal, such as Janas near Sintra, prospective organic farmers can also add to their knowledge. Everything, from the production of hydromel (similar to mead) and mushrooms to apple wine pressing, the ecological production of fertilisers, tree maintenance and permaculture: Portugal is presented to us there as a land of boundless opportunities for agriculture. Permanently changing courses are offered all year round and people who want to share their knowledge can design a workshop and offer it there.
Who keeps an eye on our forests?
After the profession of forest ranger was done away with in 2006 under the government of José Socrates, the decision was reversed ten years later. The forest ranger is now enshrined as an official part of the criminal police services in a new legislative decree (Decree-Law No. 247/2015). In January this year, ECO123 received the information that Minister of the Interior Eduardo Cabrita planned to recruit 200 new forest rangers. However, in the initial phase, this recruitment will take place exclusively within the Guarda Nacional Republicana – GNR, the national republican guard. The job is due to be advertised publicly in a second phase, but this is no longer expected to happen in 2018. *
People who would like to tackle forestry protection in a professional capacity and hence do not want to wait until 2019 can apply to the Instituto da Conservação da Natureza e das Florestas – ICNF, the Portuguese Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests, as a park ranger (Guardas e Vigilantes da Natureza) for one of the posts in one of the Portuguese national parks. Under the heading of human resources, 90 posts for park rangers were advertised on the ICNF website at the end of May. Officially, this position only requires the minimum level of compulsory education (escolaridade mínima obrigatória), but ECO123 has learned from well-informed sources that most of the latest group of park rangers to be admitted had higher education qualifications. The deadline for applying for these vacancies has already passed, but new opportunities are regularly published. So, keep an eye open for developments!