Social Farming in Portugal

In Portugal, information concerning the number of social farms has not been compiled, thus the current situation can only be described through case studies. Most of the social farms belong to Private Institutions for Social Solidarity (IPSS) and social cooperatives (CERCI). These institutions have developed since the 1960's through the initiative of parents of disabled children in response to the lack of public structures. As the number children integrated through them in normal schools has increased, private institutions have tended to assume a complementary role. These institutions provide resources, share expertise in specific curricular areas and therapies, and facilitate social integration of disabled children.

At present, there are very few organic social farms, though there's a growing trend for established social farms to convert to organic agriculture. This is due to the nature of their work and the specific needs of their clients, who benefit from the reduced hazards by production without the use of toxic pesticides, as well as from the increased biodiversity, labour intensity, and a broad range of activities. Because social farms often struggle with economic difficulties, payments and market premiums for organic agriculture are appealing and often are a decisive factor to convert to organic agriculture.

More isolated initiatives on organic social farming tend to develop, both within the private and public sector, for social reintegration, work training and/or therapy of ex-drug addicts, prisoners, elderly people, and other vulnerable people. Creating a network among them to promote communication and the exchange of experiences, as well as developing an advisory service and political representation, would be a step forward, both to help maintain and to spread organic social farming initiatives.