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Water is life! – Tamera is Creating a Model for Renaturation of Dry Regions

by Tamera, Portugal

The Tamera water landscape is a model and an educational project for natural water management and the renaturation of damaged landscapes all over the world and a basis for forestation, horticulture and agriculture in regions threatened by desertification. It is a globally adaptable model which can be applied in all regions in various appropriate forms.

Southern Portugal is threatened by rapid desertification. Forest fires, summer droughts and the loss of biodiversity are symptoms of a widespread loss of valuable land. The vegetation is threatened. Cork oaks and pine trees die in large numbers because the soil, leeched by excessive grazing and poor agricultural practices has lost its capacity to retain water. Erosion washes away fertile soil and what’s left dries up. Simultaneously there is flooding and water damage due to strong winter rainfalls every spring. Desertification and flooding are symptoms of one problem: incorrect water management caused by industrial agriculture, over-grazing, monoculture forestry and deforestation. Portugal´s average rainfall is similar to that of central Europe — yet the desert seems to grow right before our eyes.

Since 2007 Tamera has been building a model for natural water management with the help of the Austrian Permaculture specialist Sepp Holzer. The core of the project is a water landscape with a system of interconnected rain water retention spaces that are built into the landscape in a harmonious way. The water is stored behind a dam of natural material (clay).

Because these water retention spaces have deep and shallow zones and a meandering shoreline, the water is constantly moving. Therefore the vitality, oxygenation and self purification of the water is assured. Further sealing of the lakes with foil or concrete is neither necessary nor desired: This way the water has time to slowly seep into and to sustainably soak earth which had been dried up for decades. Five water retention spaces have already been realized and ten more are planned.

Impressive results were already seen in the first year after building the first retention space, and positive effects increase every year: the humidity stimulates life in the soil. Vegetation has recovered. Wildlife has returned. Throughout the year, vegetables and fruit trees are growing on the lakeside terraces. The need for irrigation has been greatly reduced — it is now more natural and requires less energy due to the proximity of the lakes. Forestation in mixed cultures is encouraged. The land becomes fertile again.

This model drew a lot of attention from all over Portugal. With the current economic crisis, more and more farmers, conservationists and politicians are realising that this could not only be an ecological but also and economic solution.

The project shows how local self-sufficiency in the area of water and food is actually possible with the retention of rain water. It shows how quickly a landscape regenerates once water is restored. With this knowledge a global shift is possible: desertification can be stopped.

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