Inés Benítez, MDes ADPD 2019; Melissa Naranjo, MLA I AP 2019

Summer 2018

Organization: Arganil Municipality, Arganil, Portugal

Sponsor: International Travel Community Service Fellowship


“In our second week, we have started to map the existing socalcos. It has not been an easy task, as the whole valley is surrounded by them and also have crops and forests on top of them. Still, we now have a better understanding of their functions inside a bigger system, as well as a better understanding of the area of study.

At this point, we are curious about the hydric systems that feed the villages and small populations around the study area, as well as the manipulation of the hydric systems for the socalcos. By mapping both of them, we can understand if it is possible to overlay them. Then, perhaps by opening some of the intubated areas, we could foster a more humid environment around certain areas of the study area in order to prevent wildfires.

At the same time, our research is beginning to indicate to us that the structures of the socalcos would be very hard to reuse in agriculture. In that regard, food systems around Benfeita have become central to this research project. There is apparently a locally-produced crop selection that seems to stay here between the residents. Nevertheless, there is a big weekly food supply coming from bigger cities.

Aside from all the research and field work, we have really started to feel like residents here. The Portuguese have been the warmest, most open and generous hosts. They are constantly sharing pictures, stories, memories, and also several glasses of wine. We have traveled a bit around the other surrounding villages for festivities, hikes, and curiosity.

Also, we ended up meeting some of the foreigners that live here, and that has added a different layer to our project here. There is clearly language barrier, yet some of the foreigners that really speak Portuguese are more related with the community. They have already begun to participate in the community as horticulture enhancers, eco-friendly leaders, and organizing different sorts of activities, etc.

We have an ambitious agenda, and so we’re currently working to plan out our time in the coming weeks more rigorously in order to make the most of it. We’re also already starting to look towards the completion of our project and are beginning to work on the exhibition proposal for the end of our time here.


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