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Thank you

 

In the night of Sunday, 5 August 2018, a swath of fire crawled over the Picota peak, from the north to the south of the Algarve, up the entire mountain and back again, destroying our beautiful mixed forest and gardens in Esgravatadouro near Caldas de Monchique on the southern side. Friends helped us fight the fire with buckets and hoses. Some of the fires would keep flaring up, but we didn’t give in nor did we accept to be evacuated. When the police did evacuate us we returned half an hour later to continue fighting the fire. No fire engines to be seen anywhere. By now we’re used to having to help ourselves. We couldn’t allow our trees, our forest to just burn down. Thanks to this half of the forest, with pines and cork oaks, cedars and linden trees, carob and olive trees survived by the courage of a few to defy the forest fire, to face down the fire with determination. This was the worst week of our lives: between Friday 3 and 10 August 2018. The fires would rise up in a blaze again and again, day and night. The wind was blowing at high speed. Conditions were extremely dry and very hot. The air was stifling. We were wearing gas masks and wet cloths in the haze and smoke produced by the forest fire. And where we did manage to extinguish the blaze, ash would pile up afterwards. Yet after only one week nature awakened. A single bud sprouted from the ash, blooming pink and white, while all around it everything was black still.

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In the days following the fire we got to see the extent of the destruction for the first time. Many young trees in particular had burned, but also those we couldn’t get to because the hoses weren’t long enough. The first thing we decided to tackle after the forest fire was the clean-up and reforestation, as well as setting up a protected area. For after a forest fire the level of destruction is high, with the biggest problem the spread of invasive tree species including eucalyptus and acacia. These invasive pests will always return after fires. We decided to establish a cooperative and to set up a Botanic Forest Garden to replant many of the burnt tree and plant species, and to offer better protection to those that had survived. This is our clear statement against anthropogenic climate change. We humans form part of nature, and we want to protect our multifaceted biotope.

Which is why we started a crowdfunding campaign, to finance the installation of a forest fire protection system with high-performing sprinklers. The crowdfunding campaign started in July 2021 and ended last week, on 15 January, successfully. Many donations arrived, from near and afar, and that’s what we’d like to say thank you for now, from the bottom of our hearts. The excavation work to prepare for the laying of the water pipes started already in December 2021, and when we inaugurate the sprinkler system in the spring of 2022, we will detail exactly how we have used these donations totalling 8,053 euros. We are grateful to all our 44 supporters, in particular to:

Annette K. (PT), Lenz J. (DE), Erika D. (PT),Thomas Walter G. (FR), Stefanie K. (PT), Peter A. (PT), Falk St. (PT), Rita L. (PT), Inge K. (PT), Jürgen M. (PT), Doris W. (PT), Elisabete F. (PT), Manuel N. (PT), Luís P. (PT), Birgit E. (USA), Maria Manuela D. (PT), Marcus Pf. (DE), Gerhard W. (PT), Alexandra Th. (DE), Felix W. (PT), Ana Cristina J.(PT), Jelly de J. (NL), Margarida de L. F. (PT) Isabel B. (PT), Martin K. (DE), Filomena C. (PT), Vera G. (PT), Theobald T. (PT), Thomas & Susanne G. (PT), Cassandra J.Q. (PT), Michael v. R. (PT), Filipa S. (DE), Felix B. (DE), Dominika G. (PL), Andrea H. (DE), António José V. (PT), Birgit O. (PT), Katie K. (PT), Isabel Sp. (DE), Jane R. (UK) (…)

 

Uwe Heitkamp (60)

trained TV journalist, book author and hobby botanist, father of two grown-up children, knows Portugal for 30 years, founder of ECO123. Translations : João Medronho, Kathleen Becker
Fotos: Uwe Heitkamp

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