Algarve farmers call on the next government to take action

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Farmers from the Algarve who held a slow march on the National Road (EN) 125 today called on the next government to take measures to increase water storage in the region, which is suffering from extreme drought.

“We propose that there should be more water storage, that there should naturally be a long-term strategic policy, with new dams and efficiency measures that obviously have to be taken, but equally for all sectors,” Macário Correia, president of the Eastern Algarve Irrigation Association, told Lusa.

The slow march, which took place between Boliqueime and Almancil, in the municipality of Loulé, in the district of Faro, forced the normal speed of traffic on the very busy EN125 to be reduced and was made up, according to the organizers, of around 300 agricultural machines and 600 people.

Algarve farmers call on the next government to take action

A delegation from the recently-formed Algarve Commission for Hydro-agricultural Sustainability (CSHA) went to the Algarve Coordination and Development Commission (CCDR) in Faro at the end of the morning to present a set of demands to the next government.

“We want the next government to listen to us and to have a strategic vision of water policy at national level and in the Algarve in particular, so that there is fair and equal treatment of all sectors,” said Macário Correia.

Algarve farmers call on the next government to take action

CSHA’s demands also include an increase in water storage capacity, fair cuts in water use and the restructuring of the Ministry of Agriculture, with the reinstallation of the regional directorates of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Young Algarvian farmer Duarte Miguel, driving a tractor in the middle of the long queue of vehicles that formed on the EN125, stressed that he was protesting because in the north there were “full dams letting the water run into the sea” and because the government was “doing nothing to take the extra water” to the south of the country.

“We’re short of water and I have to defend my job. Without water, there won’t be any agricultural work in the Algarve,” said José Aberto, who works in a plant nursery, and the ornamental plants sector is another of the activities affected.

The farmers tied banners and placards to the farm machinery, which read: “Water is life, agriculture is food”, “We only realize the value of water once the source has dried up” or “Our trees need water to bear fruit”, among other slogans.

“The government that emerges from these elections has to look at this and define a strategy. People have to know what they can count on,” said another of the agricultural leaders at the head of the protest, José Oliveira, from the Algarve Citrus Operators Association (AlgarOrange).

The CSHA, which claims to bring together more than 1,000 Algarvian organizations and farmers, argues that, as the rainfall in recent weeks has exceeded the executive’s estimates, all the proceeds should be “used to alleviate the cuts imposed on agriculture”.

The Algarve has been on alert due to the drought since February 5, and the government has approved a set of measures to restrict consumption, namely a 15% reduction in the urban sector, including tourism, and a 25% reduction in agriculture.

In addition to these measures, there are others such as the fight against losses in supply networks, the use of treated water for irrigating green spaces, streets and golf courses, or the suspension of the granting of water resource use permits.

The government has already admitted to raising the level of restrictions, declaring a state of environmental emergency or calamity if the measures now in place are insufficient to deal with the water shortage in the region.

Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi

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