Cooperating to fight bushfires!
Ever since I can recall, as summer approaches in Andalusia (southern territory of the Spanish Iberian peninsula), not only the heat rises but also a strange feeling, some kind of fear that boils down to two words: forest fires. Nowadays, that feeling may not be so tangible because most of the population gather around cities and tend to ignore the existence of rural areas in their everyday lives, but, for me, that fear still stands. Although I was born and raised in a big city, I have spent all my summers in a small village in the mountains of Cádiz called El Bosque (literally, The Woods) and, there, you can feel it: every time you hear an helicopter engine, you look up to the sky and hope that the fire, at least, is not close to your village.
Last summer, there were two small fires in the surroundings of El Bosque but, luckily, they were extinct within a few hours by the fire brigades. However, other natural spaces were not that lucky and suffered massive forest fires all around Andalusia and also in Portugal, because borders do not prevent fires from spreading… In fact, Andalusia, Algarve and Alentejo have more things in common than I could have imagined at first. We have pretty much the same social and economic issues and, specially, we suffer from the same impacts of the climate change: temperature rise, droughts and desertification, all of them closely linked to forest fires.
The CILIFO Project was conceived and launched with the firm intention of fighting against these forest fires, and also aiming to prevent them, by joining forces between neighbours. The Iberian Centre for Research and Forest Firefighting, framed within the Cross-border Cooperation Program Interreg V-A Spain-Portugal Interreg POCTEP (2014-2020), has a total budget of 24,6 million euros and will last until December of 2022. More specifically, its objectives are to strengthen cooperation concerning operating procedures and training between the forest fire preventing and extinguishing devices from both countries, to reduce the economic cost of fires by creating a rural economy linked to the landscape and to improve the capacity to respond to forest fires in the three participating regions.
In order to achieve these ambitious purposes, a partnership of 15 Spanish and Portuguese entities –among which we can find the regional Administration of Andalusia, public universities and other private foundations -, was set up and six different work groups were established so as to work more efficiently. These teams, each one focused on one specific activity, are working towards the reinforcement of the cooperation infrastructures, the design of an awareness-raising plan or to develop scientific knowledge on the analysis and management of forest fire risk, for example.
During my IVY volunteering I am collaborating with one of those entities, Finnova Foundation, and I am actively supporting the activities of the communication department. I am creating content for the website and for CILIFO social media while giving support to the organisation of seminars and virtual events. We are raising awareness about how important it is to take care of our natural spaces and to be particularly cautious when it comes to fires in rural areas. Also, I am lending a hand in more bureaucratic paperwork, which is giving me a deep insight into how Interreg projects work.
There is still so much work to do and, although some goals of CILIFO have already been reached, we still have months ahead to keep on setting the path to foster collaboration between Spain and Portugal and try to put and end to massive forest fires in the South of the Iberian Peninsula.
Ana Piñero Domínguez, Interreg Project Partner at CLIFO project