1. bookVolume 12 (2020): Issue 1 (March 2020)
Journal Details
First Published
24 Feb 2009
Publication timeframe
4 times per year
access type Open Access

Permaculture in Portugal: Social-Ecological Inventory of a Re-Ruralizing Grassroots Movement

Published Online: 09 Apr 2020
Page range: 30 - 52
Received: 08 Apr 2019
Accepted: 10 Feb 2020
Journal Details
First Published
24 Feb 2009
Publication timeframe
4 times per year

Southern European countries face a panorama of rural landscape abandonment, ageing rural population and lack of opportunities for vibrant rural lifestyles. This lead the way for over-exploitative monocultural practices and widespread abandonment of traditional land management practices, intensifying the degradation of rural landscapes, suffering already from the impacts of climate change and global economic pressures. Although policy driven initiatives can scale solutions to have wider impact, if not attuned to local contexts they can also increase the problems felt at the local level. Highlighting local grassroots innovations and locally appropriate solutions can support such attunement. Community-led grassroots initiatives have been sprouting, wishing to regenerate their landscapes grounded on ecocentric ethical approaches to Neo-rural lifestyles. Within Portugal, Permaculture, as a landscape ecological design movement and practice, has been one of those approaches, activated by young citizens wishing to recreate and innovate alternatives for the sustainable management of land, associated with lifestyle choices and local entrepreneurship. With this article, using a socio-ecological inventory as a baseline exploratory study, we are aiming to identify and start characterizing, the Permaculture landscape ecological design movement in Portugal, the motivations and perceptions of such movement, and its contribution towards the transformation of landscape management, societal trends and ecocentric innovations, to create more sustainable socio-ecological rural livelihoods within a Portuguese context.


[1] Abram, D. (1996). The spell of the sensuous: perception and language in a more-than-human world. New York: Pantheon Books.Search in Google Scholar

[2] Ajates Gonzalez, R. (2017). Going back to go forwards? From multi-stakeholder cooperatives to Open Cooperatives in food and farming. Journal of Rural Studies. Pergamon, 53, 278–290. DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2017.02.018.Search in Google Scholar

[3] Allen, S., Cunliffe, A. L. & Easterby-Smith, M. (2017). Understanding Sustainability Through the Lens of Ecocentric Radical-Reflexivity: Implications for Management Education. Journal of Business Ethics 154, 781–795. DOI: 10.1007/s10551-016-3420-3.Search in Google Scholar

[4] Almeida, M., Loupa Ramos, I., Menezes, H., Carvalho Ribeiro, S. M., Guiomar, N. & Pinto-Correia, T. (2016). Urban population looking for rural landscapes: Different appreciation patterns identified in Southern Europe. Land Use Policy 53, 44–55. DOI: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2015.09.025.Search in Google Scholar

[5] Baird, J., Plummer, R. & Pickering, K. (2014). Priming the governance system for climate change adaptation: The application of a social-ecological inventory to engage actors in Niagara, Canada. Ecology and Society. 19(1), art3. DOI: 10.5751/ES-06152-190103.Search in Google Scholar

[6] Brawner, A. J. (2015). Permaculture in the margins: realizing Central European regeneration. Journal of Political Ecology 22(1), 357–465. DOI: 10.2458/v22i1.21117.Search in Google Scholar

[7] Campos, I., Vizinho, A., Truninger, M. & Penha Lopes, G. (2016). Converging for deterring land abandonment: a systematization of experiences of a rural grassroots innovation. Community Development Journal 51(4), 552–570. DOI: 10.1093/cdj/bsv051.Search in Google Scholar

[8] Campos, I. (2016). Societal Transformation and Climate Change Adaptation: PAR experiences in Portugal [PhD thesis]: Lisbon: University of Lisbon.Search in Google Scholar

[9] Chapin, F. S, Carpenter, S. R., Kofinas, G. P., Folke, C., Abel, N., Clark, W. C., Olsson, P., Stafford Smith, D. M., Walker, B., Young, O. R., Berkes, F., Biggs, R., Morgan Grove, J., Naylor, R. L., Pinkerton, E, Steffen, W. & Swanson, F. J. (2010). Ecosystem stewardship: sustainability strategies for a rapidly changing planet. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 25(4), 241–249. DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2009.10.008.Search in Google Scholar

[10] Christopoulos, D. C. (2009). Peer esteem snowballing: A methodology for expert surveys. In: New techniques and technologies for statistics (pp. 171–179). Amsterdam: IOS Press.Search in Google Scholar

[11] Duncan, S. & Krawczyk, T. (2018). Keyline Water Management: Field Research & Education in the Capital Region Soil Indicators Monitoring Program [research report]. Victoria: The British Columbia Agricultural and Food Climate Action Initiative, Farm Adaptation Innovator Progarm.Search in Google Scholar

[12] Ecosystems and human well-being (2005). Washington, DC: Island Press.Search in Google Scholar

[13] Elzen, B., Geels, F. W. & Green, K. (2004). System innovation and the transition to sustainability : theory, evidence and policy. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Search in Google Scholar

[14] Esteves, A. M. (1994). “Commoning” at the borderland: ecovillage development, socioeconomic segregation and institutional mediation in southwestern Alentejo, Portugal. Journal of Political Ecology. 24(1), 968–991. DOI: 10.2458/v24i1.20978.Search in Google Scholar

[15] Ferguson, R. S. & Lovell, S. T. (2014). Permaculture for agroecology: Design, movement, practice, and worldview. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 34, 251–274. DOI: 10.1007/s13593-013-0181-6.Search in Google Scholar

[16] Ferguson, R. S. & Lovell, S. T. (2015). Grassroots engagement with transition to sustainability: Diversity and modes of participation in the international permaculture movement. Ecology and Society 20(4), art39. DOI: 10.5751/ES-08048-200439.Search in Google Scholar

[17] Figueiredo, J. & Pereira, H. M. (2011). Regime shifts in a socio-ecological model of farmland abandonment’, Landscape Ecology 26(5), 737–749. DOI: 10.1007/s10980-011-9605-3.Search in Google Scholar

[18] Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2016An indicator-based report (2017). Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.Search in Google Scholar

[19] Geels, F. W. (2002). Technological transitions as evolutionary reconfiguration processes: a multi-level perspective and a case-study. Research Policy 31(8–9), 1257–1274. DOI: 10.1016/S0048-7333(02)00062-8.Search in Google Scholar

[20] Geels, F. W. (2012). A socio-technical analysis of low-carbon transitions: introducing the multi-level perspective into transport studies. Journal of Transport Geography. 24, 471–482. DOI: 10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2012.01.021.Search in Google Scholar

[21] Geels, F. W. (2014). Regime Resistance against Low-Carbon Transitions: Introducing Politics and Power into the Multi-Level Perspective. Theory, Culture & Society. 31(5), 21–40. DOI: 10.1177/0263276414531627.Search in Google Scholar

[22] Geels, F. W., Sovacool, B. K., Schwanen, T. & Sorrell, S. (2017). The Socio-Technical Dynamics of Low-Carbon Transitions. Joule 1(3), 463–479. DOI: 10.1016/j.joule.2017.09.018.Search in Google Scholar

[23] Geels, F. W. & Schot, J. (2007). Typology of sociotechnical transition pathways. Research Policy. 36(3), 399–417. DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2007.01.003.Search in Google Scholar

[24] Glossary of terms (2012). In: Field, C. B., Barros, V., Stocker, T. F., Qin, D., Dokken, D. J., Ebi, K. L., Mastrandrea, M. D., Mach, K. J., Plattner, G.-K., Allen, S. K., Tignor, M. & Midgley, P. M., eds., Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (pp. 555–564). Cambridge, UK, and New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

[25] Goodman, L. A. (1961). Snowball Sampling. The Annals of Mathematical Statistics, 32(1), 148–170. DOI: 10.1214/aoms/1177705148.Search in Google Scholar

[26] Henfrey, T. & Penha-Lopes, G., eds. (2015). Permaculture and climate change adaptation: Inspiring ecological, social, economic and cultural responses for resilience and transformation. East Meon: Permanent Publications.Search in Google Scholar

[27] Holmgren, D. (2002). Permaculture: Principles and Pathways to Sustainability. Victoria: Holmgren Design Services.Search in Google Scholar

[28] Holzer, S. (2011). Desert or Paradise: Restoring Endangered Landscapes using Water Management, including Lake and Pond Construction. Chelsea Green Publishing.Search in Google Scholar

[29] Hudcová, E., Chovanec, T. & Moudrý, J. (2018). Social Entrepreneurship in Agriculture, a Sustainable Practice for Social and Economic Cohesion in Rural Areas: The Case of the Czech Republic. European Countryside 10(3), 377–397. DOI: 10.2478/euco-2018-0022.Search in Google Scholar

[30] Hughes, T. P. (1993). Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 18801930 (Softshell Books). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.Search in Google Scholar

[31] Keesstra, S., Nunes, J., Novara, A., Finger, D., Avelar, D., Kalantari, Z. & Cerdà, A. (2018). The superior effect of nature based solutions in land management for enhancing ecosystem services. Science of the Total Environment 610–611, 997–1009. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.08.077.Search in Google Scholar

[32] Kemp, R., Schot, J. & Hoogma, R. (1998). Regime shifts to sustainability through processes of niche formation: The approach of strategic niche management. Technology Analysis and Strategic Management 10(2), 175–195. DOI: 10.1080/09537329808524310.Search in Google Scholar

[33] Kosmas, C., Kairis, O., Karavitis, C., Acikalin, S., Alcalá, M., Alfama, P., Althopeng, J., Barrera, J., Belgacem, A., Solé-Benet, A., Brito, J., Chaker, M., Chabda, R., Darkoh, M., Ermolaeva, O., Fassouli, V., Fernandez, F., Gokceoglu, C., Gonzales, D., Gungor, H., Hessel, R., Khatteli, H., Khitrov, N., Kounalaki, A., Laouina, A., Magole, L., Medina, L., Mendoza, M., Mulale, K., Ocakoglu, F., Ouessar, M., Ovalle, C., Perez, C., Perkins, J., Pozo, A., Prat, C., Ramos, A., Ramos, J., Riquelme, J., Ritsema, C., Romanenkov, V., Sebego, R., Sghaier, M., Silva, N., Sizemskaya, M., Sonmez, H., Taamallah, H., Tezcan, L., de Vente, J., Zagal, E., Zeiliguer, A. & Salvati, L. (2015). An exploratory analysis of land abandonment drivers in areas prone to desertification. Catena 128, 252–261. DOI: 10.1016/j.catena.2014.02.006.Search in Google Scholar

[34] Lin, B. B. (2011). Resilience in Agriculture through Crop Diversification: Adaptive Management for Environmental Change. BioScience 61(3), 183–193. DOI: 10.1525/bio.2011.61.3.4.Search in Google Scholar

[35] Luedeling, E., Kindt, R., Huthm, N. & Koenig, K. (2014). Agroforestry systems in a changing climate-challenges in projecting future performance. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 6, 1–7. DOI: 10.1016/j.cosust.2013.07.013.Search in Google Scholar

[36] Maye, D. (2018). Examining Innovation for Sustainability from the Bottom Up: An Analysis of the Permaculture Community in England. Sociologia Ruralis. 58(2), 331–350. DOI: 10.1111/soru.12141.Search in Google Scholar

[37] Mbow, C., Smith, P., Skole, D., Duguma, L. & Bustamante, M. (2014). Achieving mitigation and adaptation to climate change through sustainable agroforestry practices in Africa. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 6, 8–14. DOI: 10.1016/j.cosust.2013.09.002.Search in Google Scholar

[38] McManus, B. (2010). ‘An Integral Framework for Permaculture’, Journal of Sustainable Development, 3(3), pp. 162. DOI: 10.5539/jsd.v3n3p162.Search in Google Scholar

[39] Mijatović, D. et al. (2013). The role of agricultural biodiversity in strengthening resilience to climate change: Towards an analytical framework. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 11(2), 95–107. DOI: 10.1080/14735903.2012.691221.Search in Google Scholar

[40] Mollison, B. & Slay, R. M. (1991). Introduction to permaculture. Sisters Creek: Tagari Publications.Search in Google Scholar

[41] Mosquera-Losada, M. R., Santiago-Freijanes, J. J., Rois-Díaz, M., Moreno, G., den Herder, M., Aldrey-Vázquez, M., Ferreiro-Domínguez, N., Pantera, A., Pisanelli, A. & Rigueiro-Rodríguez, A. (2018). Agroforestry in Europe: A land management policy tool to combat climate change. Land Use Policy 78, 603–613. DOI: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2018.06.052.Search in Google Scholar

[42] Naveh, Z. (2000). What is holistic landscape ecology? A conceptual introduction. Landscape and Urban Planning 50(1–3), 7–26. DOI: 10.1016/S0169-2046(00)00077-3.Search in Google Scholar

[43] O’Hara, E. (2013). Europe in Transition: local communities leading the way to a low-carbon society. Bruxelles: Association Européenne pour l’Information sur le Développement Local.Search in Google Scholar

[44] Pacheco Coelho, M. (2014). “Co-management” revisited: sustainable use of natural resources and model of governance of Tamera/Portugal. Confluências 16(1), 41–56. DOI: 10.22409/conflu16i1.p337.Search in Google Scholar

[45] Penha-Lopes, G. & Henfrey, T. (2019). Reshaping the Future: How local communities are catalysing social, economic and ecological transformation in Europe [status report]. Brussel: ECOLISE.Search in Google Scholar

[46] Pijnappels, M. & Diett, P. (2013). Adaptation inspiration book. 22 implemented cases of local climate change adaptation to inspire European citizens. Lisboa: Circle 2.Search in Google Scholar

[47] Pinto-Correia, T., Almeida, M. & Gonzalez, C. (2017). Transition from production to lifestyle farming: new management arrangements in Portuguese small farms. International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management. 13(2), 136–146. DOI: 10.1080/21513732.2017.1329753.Search in Google Scholar

[48] Pinto-Correia, T., Barroso, F. & Menezes, H. (2010). The changing role of farming in a peripheric South European area – The challenge of the landscape amenities demand. In Wiggering, H., Ende, H.-P. & Knierim, A., eds., Innovations in European Rural Landscapes (pp. 53–76). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Verlag. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-04172-3_5.Search in Google Scholar

[49] Raven, R., Kern, F., Verhees, B. & Smith, A. (2016). Niche construction and empowerment through socio-political work. A meta-analysis of six low-carbon technology cases. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 18, 164–180. DOI: 10.1016/j.eist.2015.02.002.Search in Google Scholar

[50] Robertson, B. (2007). Organization at the Leading Edge: Introducing HolacracyTM’. Integral Leadership Review. DOI: 10.1007/s.Search in Google Scholar

[51] Rockström, J., Steffen, W., Noone, K., Persson, Å., Stuart Chapin III, A., Lambin, E. F., Lenton, T. M., Scheffer, M., Folke, C., Schellnhuber, H. J., Nykvist, B., de Wit, C. A., Hughes, T., van der Leeuw, S., Rodhe, H., Sörlin, S., Snyder, P. K., Costanza, R., Svedin, U., Falkenmark, M., Karlberg, L., Corell, R. W., Fabry, V. J., Hansen, J., Walker, B., Liverman, D., Richardson, K., Crutzen, P. & Foley, J. A. (2009). A safe operating space for humanity. Nature 461, 472–475. DOI: 10.1038/461472a.Search in Google Scholar

[52] Salmón, E. (2000). Kincentric ecology: Indigenous perceptions of the human-nature relationship. Ecological Applications 10(5), 1327–1332. DOI: 10.2307/2641288.Search in Google Scholar

[53] Santos, A., Godinho, D. P., Vizinho, A., Alves, F., Pinho, P., Penha-Lopes, G. & Branquinho, C. (2018). Artificial lakes as a climate change adaptation strategy in drylands: evaluating the trade-off on non-target ecosystem services. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 23(6), 887–906. DOI: 10.1007/s11027-017-9764-x.Search in Google Scholar

[54] Chippers, P., van der Heide, C. M., Koelewijn, H. P., Schouten, M. A. H., Smulders, M. J. M., Cobben, M. M. P., Sterk, M., Vos, C. C. & Verboom, J. (2014). Landscape diversity enhances the resilience of populations, ecosystems and local economy in rural areas, Landscape Ecology. 30(2), 193–202. DOI: 10.1007/s10980-014-0136-6.Search in Google Scholar

[55] Schlosberg, D. & Coles, R. (2016). The new environmentalism of everyday life: Sustainability, material flows and movements. Contemporary Political Theory. 15(2), 160–181. DOI: 10.1057/cpt.2015.34.Search in Google Scholar

[56] Schoeneberger, M. M. (2009). Agroforestry: Working trees for sequestering carbon on agricultural lands. Agroforestry Systems, 75, 27–37. DOI: 10.1007/s10457-008-9123-8.Search in Google Scholar

[57] Schultz, L., Folke, C. & Olsson, P. (2007). Enhancing ecosystem management through social-ecological inventories: Lessons from Kristianstads Vattenrike, Sweden. Environmental Conservation. 34(2), 140–152. DOI: 10.1017/S0376892907003876.Search in Google Scholar

[58] Seyfang, G., Hielscher, S., Hargreaves, T., Martiskainen, M. & Smith, A. (2014). A grassroots sustainable energy niche? Reflections on community energy in the UK. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 13, 21–44. DOI: 10.1016/j.eist.2014.04.004.Search in Google Scholar

[59] Shultz, L., Plummer, R. & Purdy, S. (2011). Applying a Social-Ecological Inventory: A workbook for finding the key actors and engaging them [unpublished document]. Stockholm Resilience Centre.Search in Google Scholar

[60] Smith, A., Fressoli, M., Abrol, D., Around, E. & Ely, A. (2017). Grassroots innovation movements. London: Routledge.Search in Google Scholar

[61] Smith, A., Stirling, A. & Berkhout, F. (2005). The governance of sustainable socio-technical transitions. Research Policy 34(10), 1491–1510. DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2005.07.005.Search in Google Scholar

[62] Sobral, D. (2014). O povoamento neo-rural em Portugal Continental: riscos e oportunidades para o planeamento do espaço rural [thesis]. Lisboa: Technical University.Search in Google Scholar

[63] Steffen, W., Broadgate, W., Deutsch, L. M., Goffery, O. & Ludwig, C. (2015). The trajectory of the Anthropocene: The Great Acceleration. The Anthropocene Review 2(1) 81–98. DOI: 10.1177/2053019614564785.Search in Google Scholar

[64] Stirling, A., Berkhout, F. & Smith, A. (2004). Socio-Technological Regimes and Transition Contexts. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Search in Google Scholar

[65] Tulla, A. F., Vera, A., Valldeperas, N. & Guirado, C. (2018). Social Return and Economic Viability of Social Farming in Catalonia: A Case-Study Analysis. European Countryside, 10(3), 398–428. DOI: 10.2478/euco-2018-0023.Search in Google Scholar

[66] Verchot, L. V., van Noordvijk, M., Kandji, S., Tomich, T. P., Ong, C., Alain, A., Mackensen, J., Bantialn, C., Anupama, K. V. & Palm, C. (2007). Climate change: Linking adaptation and mitigation through agroforestry. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 12(5), 901–918. DOI: 10.1007/s11027-007-9105-6.Search in Google Scholar

[67] Veteto, J. R. & Lockyer, J. (2008). Environmental anthropology engaging permaculture: Moving theory and practice toward sustainability. The Journal of Culture and Agriculture 30(1–2), 47–58. DOI: 10.1111/j.1556-486x.2008.00007.x.Search in Google Scholar

[68] Wahl, D. C. (2016). Designing Regenerative Cultures. Charmouth: Triarchy Press.Search in Google Scholar

[69] Winner, L. (1978). Autonomous Technology: Technics-out-of-Control as a Theme in Political Thought. Cambridge, Mass. The MIT Press.Search in Google Scholar

[70] Zanden, I. van der (2017). Using hydrogeosphere to evaluate swales as a technique to conserve water [thesis]. Ghent University.Search in Google Scholar

[71] A Community-Led Transition in Europe: Local Action Towards a Sustainable, Resilient, Low-Carbon Future’, PATHWAYS Policy Brief TRANSIT Research Report. Longhurst, N. TRANSIT Research Report, 21(1), pp. 3–11. Available at: www.permaculturecouncil.eu (Accessed: 23 September 2018).Search in Google Scholar

[72] Forum – a social technology for transparency in community (2018). Available at: https://www.tamera.org/forum/ (Accessed: 21 November 2018).Search in Google Scholar

[73] Future Earth (2018). Future Earth Engagement Principles and Practice. Available at: http://futureearth.org/media/future-earth-engagement-principles-and-practice (Accessed: 23 March 2018).Search in Google Scholar

[74] INE (2015). Available at: https://observador.pt/2015/12/18/estrangeiros-sao-38-dapopulacao-portugal-da-media-da-ue/ (Accessed: 23 March 2018).Search in Google Scholar

[75] Permaculture Worldwide (no date). Available at: https://permacultureglobal.org/ (Accessed: 23 March 2018).Search in Google Scholar

[76] Quinta do Vale da Lama (2018). Available at: http://www.valedalama.net/en/sobrenos/visao-e-missao/ (Accessed: 20 September 2018).Search in Google Scholar

[77] TameraPeace Research & Education Center (2018). Available at: https://www.tamera.org/ (Accessed: 22 August 2018).Search in Google Scholar

Recommended articles from Trend MD

Plan your remote conference with Sciendo