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The Miranda sheep starting their first working day as city helpers, Source: Miranda do Douro Municipality

Portuguese town employs sheep and donkeys in greenery maintenance

Portuguese town employs sheep and donkeys in greenery maintenance

Countryside depopulation has forced the local government to get creative

The Portuguese town of Miranda do Douro began the week with a new public service experiment – the use of a flock of a local breed of sheep to clean the overgrown vegetation of the green areas around the settlement. The authorities have also expressed intent to enlist the help of donkeys and goats in the expansion of this initiative, as well.

The use of grazing animals as a way to organically and cheaply maintain urban green areas has been gaining popularity across Europe in recent years. However, aside from the sustainable aspect of the project, mayor Helena Barril has revealed that there is also an element of necessity and resourcefulness due to the depopulation trends in rural Portugal.

We have green spaces that need to be cleared of vegetation, as is the case of this hillside at the entrance to the city, and every day we face a lack of manpower to do this work. This idea of ​​allying the indigenous breeds, in this case, sheep, arose immediately and these animals began today to do their job as pioneers,” explained to Lusa agency the mayor of Miranda do Douro.

It’s also a way to preserve indigenous breeds

Mirando do Douro is a charming historic town located in the northeast mountainous corner of Portugal, on the border with Spain. This region is also among the least densely populated in a country that has always prided itself in its seafaring traditions. The reality is that young people are not as interested in working the land the way older generations have, so it’s time to make do with whatever available resources are at hand.

According to the mayor, apart from the local churra sheep breed, other autochthonous species, such as the Mirandese donkey or goats, could be part of this initiative. However, each species can only be used where the vegetation allows, so as not to damage the local flora.

On these slopes, we are using sheep because there are olive trees here and goats are not suitable for this function, because they are animals that eat practically all types of vegetation,” exemplified Helena Barril.

In this first space of about one hectare, which is fenced so that the animals cannot go out onto the public road, water and other fodder suitable for the feeding of these ruminants were placed.

Other spaces, such as the Fresno River Urban Park, with about six hectares, could also be the target of this project and in there the Mirandese donkey will be used, given the characteristics of the area to be cleaned and deforested are suitable for the diet of these animals.

Andrea Cortinhas, technical secretary of the Churra Galega Mirandesa Sheep Breeders Association, is of the opinion that the use of these animals in cleaning green areas will allow sustainable vegetation control.

We are not using biofuels in the workforce to carry out these cleaning operations and, at the same time, we are transforming the grass mantle into the best protein that is the Mirandese lamb meat,” she stressed.

The number of animals of indigenous breeds to be used in each area may increase as they adapt to the urban environment.

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