Urban agri-forest project to protect & promote native biodiversity in Central Portugal while connecting children back to Nature

Setting up an urban food forest (native trees, plants & species) for school communities to study and learn from in Central Portugal

Photo of Sari Bernardo
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Eligibility Criteria

  • I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge and that I am eligible to apply.
  • I am 18 years old or older.

Initiative's representative name

Sari Bernardo

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative's representative gender

  • Woman

Headquarters location: country

  • Portugal

Headquarters location: city

Castelo Viegas, Coimbra

Where are you making a difference?

Mainly in Portugal mainland and Azores Islands and in Europe

Website or social media url(s)

www.romisway.net facebook: @romisway

Date Started


Project Stage

  • Start-up (first few activities have happened)

Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?

  • €1k - €10k

Organization Type

  • Nonprofit/NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

We are a group of climate change, enviroment, education and non-profit sector managers - and mothers who had their 'Aha' moment 2 years ago raising from our concern for the state of our planet and what kind of a world the next generation will inherit. We decided to put our professional expertise together and create a nonprofit organisation aiming to restore balance between people, animals and environment. This ambitious vision is why we are committing our time and energy to make actions that keeps children in the centre, allowing us to make changes for the future by investing on the future directly. We love the idea of 'green leadership' and want to bring children closer to nature and animals and learn from/with them.

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Portugal has drifted away from its natural biodiversity. Habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation are the most significant threats to species in Portugal, hosting 22% of endangered species Europe (IUCN). Unprecedented urban growth results in Nature being controlled and modified by humans, allowing invasive and business-driven plants (such as eucalyptus) to dominate the landscape, lose habitation for species and increase not just imbalance, but fire and climate change related hazards.

3. Your solution: How are you working to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

The global objective is to foster the economic and social development by stimulating biodiversity, levering communities and government action to ensure sustainable food systems and improved nutrition.Cities build resilience and sustainability by promoting local food production and agro-forest project would not be seen as an isolated act. For this urban agri-forest project, we want to bring children close to native forests and species in Portugal (including some endangered species), but not for 'passive conservation' but rather by allowing children to explore, plant, harvest and utilise the fruits of the forest while advocating biodiversity to wider public and government. Additionally, forest are to serve children (and why not adults!) for walking meetings in nature and for supervised activities for children to play & learn. We are looking to have an urban food-forest of approximately 2-5Ha nearby the main city of Coimbra in Central Portugal and welcome groups of children around the country to learn about native biodiversity of Portugal and how advocate for the importance of conservation as a balance restoring actions and effort to sustain the native biodiversity in Portugal.

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

The separation between urban and rural is a starting point. Urban spaces could, and should have better connection to native environment and biodiversity, while urban areas could be used more for responsible / sustainable tourism and as a practical learning space or a space to calm the nerves. Urban forests could bring a piece of native biodiversity into cities and increase the understand of Nature for urban societies. We are aiming for the implementation of a programme designed to increase the revenue of food forests by fostering recognition of their importance, encouraging its commercial exploitation and improving its accessibility both locally and nationally. We want the whole country to learn from our project!

5. Collaboration: How does your initiative seek to bring key players together to preserve biodiversity?

We love collaboration and networking! We already work in/with Coimbra University, are inputing to research done by Helsinki University and at local authority level, we are cooperating with the Coimbra municipality in order to support the children in Central Portugal to connect with animals and Nature (and learn & heal while doing so). Additionally, we are working with other local organisations, such as Caritas Azores and APCC Portugal. We are small, but mighty!

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far — in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

We are a new organisation, however we are individually very active and well known in the environmental groups and linked to governmental and local level actors addressing the issues of mono-culture forestry, forest fires and the disappearing biodiversity in Portugal. We are arranging three volunteering tree-planting days in Portugal in 2020, hoping to plant approximately 10,000 native trees in the central Portugal region. We want to shout out loud what Portuguese biodiversity really is - what is its current (not healthy) state of play, how to bring it back and preserve it for sustainable future for the next generation.

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

This is a pilot project but ideally Romi's Way would like to establish numbers of urban food forests in Portugal and connect with large number of communities. Because food forests have longer growing seasons, they are able to capture more solar energy, water and nutrients than purely annual systems and may be able raise crops yields, produce new high-value commodities (food, feed, and biomaterials), enhance soil quality, provide wildlife habitat and increase species biodiversity. These are filled by a wide range of organisms (the unplanned biodiversity) improving nutrient, carbon and hydrological cycles. The project can research and measure biodiversity at many levels and promote the benefits and climate change adaptability needs nationwide

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for society? Or different stakeholders?

Urban people need to be reconnected to Nature. The idea of trimmed parks in a city is representing human-controlled nature, not biodiversity nor native environments. Value for the society - both children and adults is to re-connect to what Nature really is - how it works its genius way when humans are not distorting its functions and how much we can learn from the life-cycles, interactions between plants and species and about resilience. These are values for the future we need to have in order for children to grow up to be responsible green leaders for the future. We also aim to create partnerships with local farmers and universities (our existing network of contacts) to take part.

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

We will have a 'plant a tree' campaign with volunteers planting & raising small funds for planting native trees and plants. In long term, small fees would be charged for entry and/or membership (i.e. friends of the food-forest membership). Permaculture provides an excellent and cost efficient way to maintain the food-forests (including birds distributing seed-balls and spreading seeds as our' volunteers', how lovely!). Immediate needs to purchase land, evaluate & plan the species and plants inhabitation as well as networking with local communities requires approx. 50-80,000Euros for the firs year, but only monitoring and maintenance for following years (approx. 10,000Eur/year) which are expected to be covered by fees for sessions& visits.

10. Team: what is the current composition of your current team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

We are a team of 4 members (all board members) - and all volunteers. Sari Bernardo- CEO with 13+ years International NGO management experience globally Claudia Brites (PhD) - Environmental Prog. Manager and sustainable agriculture & forestry expert with over 11 years experience in Portugal Vera Guerreiro - Education Prog.Manager working under the ministry of education and having over 15 years of teaching experience Mina Sharif - Media expert and female empowerment speciliast

11. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • fundsforngo


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