The Earth Neighbours Initiative

What is Earth Neighbours?

The Earth Neighbours initiative is about (respectfully) reoccupying available and abandoned land, focusing around existing ‘earth care’ projects to help create cells of regenerative growth. The idea is called Earth Neighbours, because it is just that; A community (common unity) of earth respecting people living (autonomously) next to each other, sharing and respecting each other’s boundaries, free to help and support each other develop their individual projects and working in synergy towards the goal of earth regeneration.

“Synergy is the interaction of multiple elements in a system to produce an effect different from or greater than the sum of their individual effects.”

The idea came from a vision of ‘earth care’ communities sprouting up across the land in various shapes and forms and forming interlinked supportive hubs, arising as a response by conscious individuals and groups, to the crisis (environmental and otherwise) occurring on our planet (much like the immune response system of a human body kicking into action). The idea inspired me to write about it in late 2102 and was subsequently published in Permaculture News.

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Visit the Earth Neighbours web site if you wish to learn more, get involved, sign up your own project or see what projects have already signed up. Get in touch if you have any questions.

I’ve also recently published another article titled ‘What is Earth Neighbours?‘ to clarify some common misconceptions about it.

The Quinta das Moitas ‘Earth Neighbourhood’

Quinta das Moitas is a pilot project of the Earth Neighbours initiative. The intention here is to create a community of adjoining permaculture projects and, in time, grow this into an incumbent reforestation ‘community’ that can act in collaboratively regenerating and protecting the greater area, as well as spreading more awareness with regard to sustainable farming and forestry practices.

What is the land like around here?
The land is located between two villages, Vila Ruiva and Carrapichana. The terrain is rocky and rugged yet bulbous and curvy with many striking features. Most areas have views of the Serra da Estrela on one side and expansive views towards the Caramulo Ranges on the other side. There are several abandoned plots around that have old stone ruins on them, some of them closer to a more habitable state than others and most with wells which seem to have plentiful water. The area sits at around 500m+ above sea level and on a kind of raised shelf, so it can be quite windy here at times. Good sun exposure on most areas. It is usually wet in winter and dry in summer.

What are the challenges here?
Water: Many plots do not have a constant water supply such as a well or a water mine. The aim here is to regenerate the landscape so this should be reflected in the way we collect water. The drilling of bore holes should be avoided and the focus should be on swales and the creation of water retention spaces. See here for some inspiration. See also Tamera Water Retention Space Project in Portugal as designed by Sepp Holzer. One of the benefits I see here is that the catchment area is well clear of anything that can potentially contaminate water supply.

Buildings: There are plots that have no building on them which means investigating the kind of structure that can be erected on them. Usually buildings that are classified as temporary structures (yurts, tipis, caravans, etc) can be erected without problem. Needless to say that aesthetics will be respected by all neighbours and creativity will serve to inspire.

Risk of Fire: Most of Portugal has a high fire danger during summer season and this area is considered a high risk area due to it’s elevation and wind exposure (and carelessness of certain people). It would be prudent to consider taking design measures to combat this such as creating a grazing zone around the perimetre to keep the grass down or lining the perimetre with fire retardant species for example, along with working to raise awareness regarding fire safety. Some of the local practices involve clearing and burning off organic matter. One thought that came to mind was that if a viable service could be created offering free collection of organic matter (that would otherwise be burnt off) then perhaps this practice could become recognised as unnecessary and wasteful, maybe even effect local policy.

Hunters: Hunters are allowed into the area and they do pass here during hunting season, but they are not allowed to shoot within 200m of your home. I believe that as more community gathers here then this will naturally serve as a deterrent to them and once there are sufficient neighbours we can approach local council about deregistering the land from legal hunting zones. In the mean time the idea is to work gently using creative ways and means (some ideas include putting up ‘no hunting’ signs – this will confuse them, spreading bee hives across the land – they cannot shoot within a 200 radius of bee hives either, organising with local shepherds to come through with their sheep on sundays – the most common hunting day or organising a social event for sundays, etc).

Monocrop Foresting: Although this particular area seems to be reasonably untouched so far by the eucalyptus planting mania going on in Portugal it would be wise to remain vigilant.

What kind of people do I want to attract here?
People from all walks of life that are truthful, responsible and self reliant with the capacity to communicate (their feelings and intentions) clearly. What I would love most is people here that are passionate about Permaculture Design.

If you resonate with the content of this web site, have a deep respect for the environment (our mother earth), are open and honest and feel that you are ready and willing to enter into a co-creative (and challenging) experiment like this one then I invite you to make contact and register your interest.

Available land around Quinta das Moitas
I’ve taken some photos and given a description of several pieces of vacant land around Quinta das Moitas that have been identified as available and open to negotiation. I have also started adding some information on plots where the owners are yet to be identified, to give an idea of what’s possible here.

The approach being taken so far is firstly to understand who the owner is, make contact with them and see if they are willing to negotiate an agreement (purchase, rent, rent to buy, exchange offer etc). If no owner can be found then there are several options that will need to be investigated

If you have questions regarding any of the above then please ask.