Reciprocity in the 'Forest of destinations'.

An example of work that at RuralisAR we identify as taking care of a.Micro Reserva‘.

Around the village of Vila de Barba near Santa Comba Dão there are a large number of small plots of land (mini fundios) where Armando Carvalho is lending the native forests a helping hand. Supporting natural succession is how he describes it. Doing the least and only the necessary work to let the native trees, shrubs and other plants establish a healthy ecosystem. Armando is taking care of the 'Floresta de destinos’, and has taken on an environmental commitment at his publisher of travel guides, Foge Comigo! offsetting the CO₂ emissions generated by the work of producing and editing each guide.

We went to visit Armando to understand how a fellow Micro Reserve caretaker approaches the work, learn from his techniques and understand what drives him.

Just as the trees he cares for, Armando's roots are in these lands, his family is from here and their lands are now his. Little over 30 years ago when he studied forestry Armando became active in caring for the forest plots owned by his family. Over the years his interest and passion for this small-scale restoration grew and with it the number of small plots he takes care of. During our visit we explore a group of plots are located just outside the village and are visible from the windows of his house. The ones closest to the village are open orchards fields, creating a fire break near the village and behind that lie the plots where his interventions aim to bring back the native forests.

It's a labor of love done on the weekends with pruners, a saw and sometimes a tractor. It's also a living laboratory where for more than 30 years now Armando has been working and seeing the results of his interventions. One of the most important results being the water in the four natural springs at the base of one of the hills where he does a lot of work. Healthy forests mean a healthy water cycle and as the expression goes: water you can also plant.

On our walk we learn about the various restoration challenges such as a small size of the plots and their inherent susceptibility to what happens on the neighbor's land, eucalyptus explosion after the fires of 2017, identification of plot boundaries, invasive species and EDP maintenance crews cutting down trees near power lines. Armando's work consists mainly of removing what should not be there, pruning to support upward growth of trees and mulching to build soils and retain water. He has been able to cover the costs for the work through smart trades of pieces of land and selling wood that he is able to harvest from his plots.

At the end of our walk we pass through an old oak grove with a large chestnut in the middle and a natural pond below it. As we stand next to the chestnut and talk about it's power it becomes very clear how much the trees and the forest also support Armando and how this is a reciprocal relationship. On a field next to the oak grove three Ash trees stand 15 mtr tall, these he planted when he started his forestry studies 35 years ago. Forest restoration work requires a long-term vision and commitment. Seeing such a beautiful example of it is empowering.

After our visit with Armando we consider what lies behind the drive and results of his work and identify these elements:

- Knowledge of forest ecosystems including the time scale of forest maturation.

- A love and passion for trees and forests.

- Persistent character.

- The proximity to the village and visibility of some of the plots from his house.

- Using the forest resources to cover a large part of the costs for the work.

- Working with a logger who is careful and skilled as to keep the damage of felling trees, to the remaining trees, to a minimum.

- The success and visible results of one of the earliest interventions. An example being the planting of the Ash trees.

- The various personal favorite locations where he experiences the uplifting and regenerating qualities of being in the forest.

- Connecting his restoration efforts to the publishing business as 'Floresta de Destinos' and building a social entrepreneurial profile.

Being connected to organizations and initiatives that celebrate and support private land owner restoration efforts such as of European Networks of Private Land Conservation..

Armando is a specialist in small scale restoration by now we hope to work with him in supporting small land owners to do Micro Reserve work. You can read more about Armando in this interview in INature and on the website of European Networks of Private Land Conservation or go and see his work during the nesta visita a Floresta de Destinos on February 25th organized by Montis ACN.

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