Restore Nature in Southern Portugal
15 January 2021
by Matthijs
Cactus: a natural fire preventor

Every Fridaymorning we organize interventions with people from the farm, but also with people from outside of Vinha Velha. We help nature where we can, while we exchange knowledge and have fun together and share a meal afterwards. Building community around nature restoration.
Last Friday we planted cactuses and helped Vinha Velha with a 'chop and drop' action: cutting the lower branches of trees so they get an impuls to grow upwards. And with the branches, we 'harvest' biomass that will protect and feed the soil.

On the border of Vinha Velha, where the fire raged in June, we planted leaves of the 'prickly pear' cactus and acorns that Kiki, one of the people that came to help, brought. She collected them during her tours in nature (Kiki trips).
We cut the leaves off the prickly pear in half and put them in the soil, there where the wild bores already loosened up the soil for us. The leaves will easily start making roots from the cut and start growing new leaves within weeks. Cactuses have unique functions. They are water collectors: they get water from the air and put it in the soil, and store it in their leaves. The humidity they create in the soil and in the plant itself, makes them a good fire break. This provides for a more in-depth and natural approach to fight fire, where in Portugal the conventional fire protection policy is to destroy the land by clearing the borders of any vegetation and turning the soil upside down, damaging the life inside.

Right next to the cactus leaves, we planted acorns that Kiki brought. The cactuses like to share the water they suck out of the air and feed the acorns in their first fragile steps of life. Let's see how they develop, I will report back in some time.

While we have interventions every Friday with a group of people, we try to improve the landscape and its nature every time a bit further. Thanks everybody for the help!