Mertola a Journey of Resilience and Perseverance

“A group of Alumni students from World Food System Center recently visited the Food Network Mértola, conducted a series of interviews and worked with us on the development of a food vision 2050. We are grateful for the collaboration between Foodnetworks and the World Food System Center, which already started in 2016.”
Please click here to view the Food-Vision 2050 for the Food Network Mértola.
Read below what they experienced at Food Network Mertola: 

Mertola a journey of resilience and perseverance

When I first met Katharina Serafimova, I heard the challenges Mertola faces. Due to its location, Mertola’s daily life seems a constant fight with the consequences of climate change; as in they were frontline warriors. Meanwhile, in the back row, some people even dare to debate if the climate is actually changing or not. As we speak, Mertola loses valuable manpower to cope with the rapid desertification.

The more I think about Mertola’s challenges, the more I see a solution in Human-Nature connection. We humans need to connect in all senses; with our fellows and with other species. It is a matter of survival. I have seen in other regions in the world, an enormous amount of knowledge, thus the power to regenerate a sustainable environment for us all. Yet we disregard our identity by leaving our culture of food behind looking to earn a wage. At this current moment, this is how it works in the system we live in until we come up with a better solution.

In November 2019 I found myself with a team of friends, all professionals. We wanted to write a Vision for the food system in 2050 but we had no place. We contacted Katharina and she greeted us with the news that our early collaboration, the food network, was already taking place. We partnered with Terra Syntropica*** and the municipality of Mertola. Thanks to the natural openness of many Mertola’s stakeholders, we applied to the Food Systems Vision Prize, a global contest via the Rockefeller Foundation.

The journey through the Vision was tight but the effort was worthwhile. With the aim of working in a bottom-up, human-centred vision, two of my friends travelled to experience and hear first hand what it is like living in Mertola.

Let’s read what @Taylor’s and @Juha’s experienced:


As soon as I woke up, I felt home. So strange, I thought, to be in a country and place I had never been, with this feeling of ease and comfort. Strange but beautiful. This feeling only deepened with the many conversations and laughs shared with the food network community. A timeless and intuitive place, the magic of Mértola— the nature and the people— is undeniable. Back in my own home, I’m homesick for the spirit of Mértola and can’t wait to return.


In the case of Mértola, this young farming couple is exactly what is needed. Young Portuguese people voluntarily moving to rural areas and willing to stay, in search of a more compelling life. Then for those who have chosen to stay, the realm is to adapt in multiple creative ways to the challenges ahead. And this has the power of bringing people together and to create meaningfulness of a kind that a more abstracted urban life might not be able to offer.

The Eat Lancet report states that “Food is the single strongest lever to optimize human health and environmental sustainability on Earth”. Once we connect with food collaboratively, nature responds back to us. Mertola has a small window of action, but a great opportunity to regenerate back to life.

Envisioning an agroecological transition and regeneration– which in turn empowers people and could result in a thriving common future based on trust– was only possible after learning the work currently being done by the community of Mertola. Choosing to stay in Mertola to face hands-on the challenges of climate change, and working to adapt and mitigate is, I think, an act of courage. I see Mertola as a clear example of infinite possibilities.

It was an honour to dream together with Mertolenses*** in this vision prize journey. It gives me hope to learn agricultural tips from the little farmers (pequenios horticultores***) who know better than me how to produce healthy food while regenerating degraded ecosystems. I clearly believe in the ability of Mertola to become a “Laboratory for a resilient future in rural regions”.

See our application here

Dream Wild and Brave,

Karolina, Taylor and Juha