Bridge-builder QXote aims to revitalize the dry Portuguese inland

Fertile agricultural land turning into a desert due to climate change – a vision of the future? My peasmakers, Hans Lodders and Sunamita Iris Rodrigues Borges da Costa of QXote, are right in the midst of this reality.

(Please note that this text is translated by Open AI. I write my all my peas in Dutch)

This week, I’m working at ‘Monte dos Três Moinhos’ in the dry inland of Portugal. This is the driest part of Europe, and if nothing is done, this area will turn into a desert.

When Hans fell in love with this mountain, he wasn’t initially focused on the problems of this region. He wanted to move to Portugal and find a nice place to carry out his work as a consultant and trainer. He met the Brazilian Sunamita, and they turned the Portuguese mountain into their shared home.

Fighting against faded glory
On the mountain stand three old grain mills. When the village was still thriving, there was a large bakery here. However, like many villages in the region, young people are leaving, drawn away by the challenges of insufficient water and increasingly difficult agriculture. The area has diminishing economic value, and shops are scarce.

When Sunamita and Hans faced this reality, they couldn’t help but make it their mission. Their dream is to revitalize the area they call home and serve as an inspiring example for all places facing similar challenges. They do this by experimenting with hands-on approaches, acquiring knowledge, and sharing it with local stakeholders.

On their own 9 hectares, they are gradually increasing biodiversity and improving soil health, following permaculture principles. Above all, they want to be bridge-builders. They bring Dutch students to Portugal to set up experiments and collaborate with Dutch universities. The next step is to connect these efforts with Portuguese schools, universities, and local farmers.

I wanted to visit QXote because the reality here today might be the reality of the Netherlands tomorrow. And I want to confront that reality. But also because ‘Monte dos Três Moinhos’ is incredibly beautiful. The starry sky is fantastic, the sunrise is enchanting every day. It is deafeningly silent here. I am grateful that I can call this place home for a while.

This week, for the first time in my life, I am helping with olive harvesting. Just by hand, as many farmers do here. And no, you can’t eat olives fresh. They need to ferment for two months, be sliced, and seasoned. What a process goes into a jar of olives. I will definitely look at the olives on my plate differently from now on.