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Marisa Filipe and José de Mascarenhas

Abandoned villages and related geographic and landscape context: guidelines to natural and cultural heritage conservation and multifunctional valorization

Villages abandoned in the last decades as a result of the inland rural areas migration are a serious and common problem in many European countries requiring a strict attention from the politicians and the community in general. The authors looked into this problem in the Portuguese context, with special emphasis on the deserted village of Broas, close to Sintra, in the province of Estremadura, Western Portugal. Firstly, the general causes of human abandonment of rural areas were analysed especially in what concerns the evolution of national and E.C. agrarian economy and other social issues, related particularly with lack of quality of life and well being. The subsequent problems of heritage conservation required also a certain attention from the authors. In fact, many of the abandoned villages have valuable vernacular heritage elements and are involved by cultural landscapes, sometimes also of heritage value. As these inland areas have in general escaped to farming intensive pressure, an important natural heritage frequently exists. Different approaches to heritage valorization, based on different Portuguese experiences and other concepts, were also examined by the authors. These processes can go from the simple interpretation centre to the eco museum development or the building recovery for tourism purposes. Nevertheless, the main measures for the reinvention of the rural must be related to the establishment of economic opportunities for new inhabitants that should be based on multifunctional agro re-conversion activity adapted to small parcels and extensive systems, associated or not with small craft industries.