The Baldios

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The baldios are an ancient tradition in Portugal, which dates back to the Middle Ages, as a privilege endowed to the inhabitants of each village, acknowledged in the royal rolls. In a feudal economy, the commons were a necessary resource to enable growers to obtain firewood and pasture, assuring their subsistence. Until the late 18th century, the commons were properties that could not be subject of individualization. However, some laws enacted by Pombal and D. Maria I, tended to misunderstand the differences between the commons and municipal properties, which gradually led to the disentailment of the commons (1869). In the 19th century, this traditional form of communal ownership was considered an embarrassment to the development of agriculture. The commons were, then, subject of individual appropriation or became property of the church parishes and counties, but not without a strong resistance of the commoners, mainly in the north of Portugal, who through some riots and successive petitions to the king’s court, were able to prevent the total absorption of the commons in large homesteads or in afforestation projects (Abel 1988). Nevertheless, according to Brouwer (1995), the commons’ area was reduced from more than 4 million ha in 1875, to 450 000 ha by the advent of the Estado Novo (new state regime) in 1933. The new state regime (…) interpreted the meaning of the word baldio literally (derived from a Teutonic idiom meaning barren, waste or bald). The government considered these lands either as being totally unused or at least as being used in a manner which, from its point of view, was inappropriate or undesirable (Government of Portugal, 1940). Communal ownership was equated with abandonment in terms of use and administration... ... middle of paper ... ...ommunity. The Baldio’s chairman, Luís Ferreira, is also a man with a certain cultural and social capital, which are essential when researching for new business opportunities. Part of the Baldio’s plan for social and institutional recognition, was the organization, in 2007, of a debate on “New perspectives for the administration of Baldios” in order to find answers for the following concerns: Today we live in an urban society and individualism, in which sense can we to talk about of a communitarian way of living? Is the decay of the rural world an accelerated process that can be reversed with natural resources of the commons as a lever? With the exodus of villages will the commons also be extinguished? What is challenging the future of the commons? ... These are just some issues that reflect the need to adaptation of management of the commons to new realities.

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