Vilares de Vilariça
Vilares de Vilariça is a village and parish about 12 Km from the municipal seat of Alfândega da Fé, in the district of Bragança. It has an area of 14.92 km² and a population density of 8.8 inhabitants/km².
Its geographical location makes this territory fertile ground for agriculture, with emphasis on the production of olive oil, wine (part of the parish is integrated into the Douro demarcated region), chestnuts, fruit and vegetables. This village, is located in the heart of the Bio-Region of the Lakes of Sabor.
The municipality of Alfândega da Fé belongs to the Sabor Lakes Bioregion. Through analysis of the Strategic Plan for the Sustainable Development of the Lower Sabor, this geographical area as a Bio-Region aims to promote sustainable management of local resources, focusing on agro-ecological food production and consumption. Guided by the principle of sustainability, this Strategic Plan aims to improve the living conditions and social cohesion of the territory's populations in balance with the environment.
In Vilares da Vilariça there is an old housing estate, a rich heritage of civil and religious architecture, which presents truly unique characteristics and has been subject to restoration.
The dam area is a place of tourist interest, with sport fishing permitted.
The privileged landscape made up of mountains and valleys, combined with the local customs and habits, the quality of the agricultural products and the rich architectural heritage, make this rural community a territory with great potential, both as an attraction for people and investment, as well as a tourist attraction.
However, there is an ageing trend and a decrease in the resident population, both in the municipality of Alfândega da Fé and in the parish of Vilares da Vilariça. According to the 2021 Census, the population of the parish has gone from 216 people (2011) to 132 (2021).
Vilares da Vilariça, like many territories in the interior of Portugal, faces challenges such as depopulation, ageing and a lack of services and economic dynamics.
The establishment about two years ago of a non-profit association - Inteligência Local - Associação para a Regeneração, Desenvolvimento, e Governanças das Economias Locais (iLocal), has been driving a pilot strategy to transform the village into a Smart Village, and thus, help attract investment and people, focusing on different areas such as tourism, education, environment, from a social and environmental perspective, but also from a business perspective.
The project already has the support of around 60 institutional and financial partners and aims to settle around 150 new people in the area by 2030 and the plan is to transfer the Smart Village concept as well to the nearest village Culmeais.
Video of Vilares de Vilariça
Degree of urbanization
population of 132
This village has no smart village strategy.
Journeys in the Village – Regenerative Entrepreneurship
iLocal's main objective is to establish a collaborative, interactive and participatory network and ensure close involvement with public and private organizations and the local community to create and implement the macro-development strategy “RegenEra Aldeia 2030 – Smart Village”.
To this end, it is proposed to:
(i) co-create and activate an ecosystem based on a sociocratic model of governance, where citizens are placed at the center of building solutions to their own challenges, needs and opportunities;
(ii) facilitate the capture of knowledge and training for new skills through top-down stimuli and/or bottom-up projects and programs;
(iii) encourage investment and the development of innovation hubs, made up of laboratories in areas of greatest vulnerability, needs and opportunities identified in the territory.
As part of the activities of the RegenEra Aldeia 2030 - Smart Village project, iLocal promoted two events in the Village.
1st Immersive Days for Sustainability (October 28 to November 1, 2022)
The aim was to develop experimental models to bring possible answers and solutions for greater sustainability, as an invitation to explore new knowledge and an opportunity to integrate it into the territory.
The event consisted of an experimental field on sustainability through Laboratories & Workshops, Open Talks, gastronomic experiences, among other activities.
The working groups were organized into thematic laboratories: energy, water, food (production - consumption), bio-construction and circular economy.
Among the positive impacts that the event brought to the territory was the strong spirit of community collaboration that was built. iLocal promoted tools that made it possible to mobilize people, namely, through its communication platform (Slack).
The 1st Immersive Days for Sustainability left a refreshed guiding vision for the coming years based on the following pillars:
(i) Endogenous resources, employment and entrepreneurship: encourage and promote actions aimed at job creation by valuing endogenous resources, bringing productive innovation, human resources training and entrepreneurship actions. Attract private investment and projects to be implemented in the territory.
(ii) Circular Economy and Green Economy: explore the potential of the green economy and circular economy to create a more resilient and sustainable territory, socially cohesive, enhancing local and regional development. Take advantage of the potential for generating energy from renewable sources and reuse of waste through projects which, in addition to their environmental impact, also have a strong social impact.
(iii) Infrastructure and housing: outline a masterplan for the village (program still to be defined), designed and structured to optimize existing spaces and infrastructure, as well as the construction of new anchor buildings.
(iv) Community, animation and cooperation: promote, encourage and support local initiatives that contribute to interpersonal dynamics, cooperation, creation/strengthening of relationships and construction of a greater sense of community.
(v) Communication (iLocal Brand + Aldeia Brand): give greater visibility and notoriety to projects through an integrated communication strategy. Create and promote the village's brand in order to provide visibility for micro-businesses and entrepreneurs who settle in the territory.
(vi) Mobility, supply chain and local markets: in engagement with different stakeholders, the aim is to think, discuss, bring innovation and new mobility solutions to the territory, which are capable of better adjusting to demographic characteristics. Strengthen the local market and shorten the supply chain to contribute to a more resilient, sustainable and productive territory.
Based on this vision, as a result, some projects/activities were established that will be part of the actions for the period 2023-2025, in order to pursue the objectives set for the macro-project RegenEra Aldeia, 2030 - Smart Village:
New editions of the Village Days, Renewable Energy Community, Village brand, Ecological Centers, Rural Entrepreneurship Days, Master Plan and an Innovative Education Project
2nd Days in the Village – Regenerative entrepreneurship (November 4-12, 2023)
The greatest challenges we face today in forgotten territories may also be the greatest opportunities. Think local, act local. There is an urgent need to revitalize local economies, create conditions for people to settle in villages and contribute to greater economic and social dynamism, increased quality of life and true territorial cohesion.
The Journeys in the Village on Regenerative Entrepreneurship have been designed to provide a set of enriching experiences based on participatory methodologies to encourage personal growth and professional training.
Eight main thematic axes have been identified with potential for regeneration and leverage regenerative businesses for Vilares da Vilariça (and to be transfer to the nearest village Culmeais): art and culture, food, well-being and health, communication, circular economy, education, energy and tourism.
Each of these axes was identified based on the territory's needs, challenges and opportunities. iLocal aims to find people who assume responsibilities and a commitment to the development of each area, collaborating with the implementation of projects that are aligned with the vision of the macroprogram RegenEra Aldeia 2030- Smart Village.
These axes are a reference, they are not closed in on themselves, they connect, generate interdependencies and positive synergies, thus guaranteeing the systemic integrality of the action. In this way, projects may emerge that are correlated to various themes or that do not specifically fit into one of the previously identified themes. It is important that all projects developed are based on regenerative, sustainable principles and are aligned with the vision of the macroprogram RegenEra Aldeia 2020 - Smart Village.
For nine days, participants had the opportunity to immerse themselves in a creative environment, where they could explore their entrepreneurial potential, developing structured ideas to create regenerative businesses adapted to the territory. This approach not only inspires entrepreneurship, but also serves as an anchor to attract and retain people in the village of Vilares da Vilariça and throughout the region.
This association is seeking greater visibility for the #repovoarointerior (repopulate the inland territories) movement and hopes to involve more people interested in living in those territories and developing regenerative businesses, which should serve as inspiration for regenerative development models across the country.
Based on the experience of the executive team, the process was divided into three main phases: (i) Search for potential participants; (ii) Search for funding partners; (iii) Program development.
One of the success factors was the communication and dissemination model. The communication strategy focused on two approaches (direct communication and digital communication) also relying on national and regional media. Taking into account the different audiences, basic materials were created with the aim of ensuring coherence and clarity in the presentation of the events, which were publicized through iLocal's channels (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, email marketing, direct communication) and the communication channels of our dissemination partners.
The selection of participants and volunteers was based on criteria such as proximity to the village, relations with the village, knowledge and relations with the Portuguese inland, applicability of knowledge to integrate future projects that could derive from the Laboratories in the program, individual skills and willingness to participate in the macro-project RegenEra Aldeia – Smart Village, interest in living in the village/territory, and applicability of knowledge in individual projects, outside the territory.