The program Las Aldeas del Futuro has been awarded the EU Break Fellowship for women entrepreneurs by the Next Generation EU. With that, in October 2022, our co-founder carried out the fieldwork in the village of Silleda, Galicia. We are very grateful to the wonderful people of Galicia for their hospitality, good spirit, and sharing their love for the region.
In 2017, María José and Rosendo Estévez started an organic farm in a small aldea called Cortegada. Now they have a fully sustainable process from seed to end product. They focus on sun-dried vegetables and fruits which they sell both as snacks and as powder. It was amazing to see how every step of the way, they tried to find the most holistic solution. The energy for the drying process comes from solar panels. The special drying machines were built with the help of the University of Santiago. There are no chemicals in use on the farm. They plant special types of flowers in-between berries to distract insects. The water that comes from the workshop where they wash and cut the products before drying is fully recycled. When it comes out of the house, it goes through various filters, then into a “purification lagoon” with a cane which cleans and enriches the water. After it arrives into a small basin and is used again for watering the plants. Even in the packaging – which is done by hand — they use biodegradable plastic and vegetable colorants.
Llerena and Andrés are leading a rural cultural project called A Gargalleira in Trasfontao (2 km from the urban center of Silleda). They aspire to share culture and enlightenment with the rural community. They organize small concerts and poetic gatherings. Two years ago they decided to move to nature and bought a plot of land with a field, forest, river, and even an old watermill. They live in two big canopy tents. There are all the things that one might have in an apartment: a fridge, a washing machine, a computer, a TV, a desk, a library, a couch, a bed, and the rest. The heating and electricity come from the solar panels they installed in the field. Every week on the local radio, Llerena is sharing her experience with leaving sustainably in a rural area and promoting eco-feminism.
The photo is courtesy of Amarelas
Erea and Cristina are the co-founders of the cooperative called Amarelas. They started it several years ago with the goal to revive rural areas through sustainable tourism. With a background in education, they are active and committed to sharing their passion for local nature and culture with youth and people who come to visit. They organize sustainable tourism and free time activities; design local development and creative socio-educational projects.
The photo is courtesy of the Association
Bea and Cristina volunteer at the Asociación Cultural Amigos de la Empanada. Every year they organize a 4-days festival in August, Fiesta de la Empanada de Bandeira, which attracts 8000+ visitors from around Galicia to their village Bandeira. They also organize smaller local events for different social groups year-round. All events are free to attend. Everything is done by a team of volunteers. Most of them join the team because they love their village.
Thank you to the principal Consuelo Rodríguez Costoyas and all the teachers and students of the school CEIP Plurilingüe de Silleda for the opportunity to host an event with 360 children and learn how they see the future of their village. The results of the event are available here.
Just before the pandemic, Jose and Fani returned to Galicia from New Zealand. They really wanted to promote local producers and sustainable products. That's how they started Mamasunción, a fully ecological shop that combines grocery and concept store. It features more than 150 local makers of Galicia. The design of the place was done with the help of local craftsmen and completed with second-hand furniture. With every customer who comes, Jose shares a lot of interesting insights about sustainability and the stories of where each item comes from. Recently they reached a milestone: thanks to the use of recyclable bags they removed the need for 20 000 plastic bags.
Fani from Mamasunción is part of the Association of Entrepreneurs and Traders of Silleda, called ECOS. There are more than 70 local businesses that take part in it. They aspire to offer sustainable and local alternatives to what people order online or buy in chain supermarkets. Within the association, they always try to support one another and collaborate. For example, a member-designer can do an interior of a member-store. That way people get to know them both.
The photo is courtesy of Comunidade de Montes de Couso
During the stakeholders meeting on the Forestry challenge at the Fundación Roberto Rivas, I had a chance to meet Xosé Antón Araúxo, the president of Mancomunidad Montes de Couso in Gondomar, Pontevedra. He shared many innovative ways in which the community of Montes de Couso is restoring the forest and reviving the local economy. From protecting the forest from invasive species to introducing alternative production methods of berries and mushrooms to educating children about nature, to creating their own methods of microfinancing and using blockchain for the local economy. It is an admirable example of how much can be accomplished in rural areas using the skills and capacities of local people.
During the Fellowship, together with 11 businesswomen, I was hosted by the Fundación Roberto Rivas. It is a private, independent, non-profit foundation that promotes the sustainable development of communities, inclusive of people and respectful of the environment, and social entrepreneurship in rural environments to generate opportunities to improve the well-being of local communities. The local office of the foundation, La Moda Rural, became our coworking space for four weeks. Thank you to the director of Fundación Roberto Rivas, Olga Rivas, for sharing the insights on rural development projects. Special thank you to Vanessa Loureiro Fernández for her support in making connections with local organizations and entrepreneurs.
On 17 October 2022, we had a visit from the mayor of Silleda, Manuel Cuíña Fernández, the council for the environment – Pilar Peón Iglesias, and the Vice-Mayor responsible for tourism – Mónica González Conde.
Really a nice place that has a game room for children and youth. Bea, the owner, is very professional, dedicated and friendly. She has built Alborada from scratch during the pandemic. This cafe is also part of the ECOS - Asociación de Empresarios y comerciantes de Silleda.
Best empanada in Silleda. It's a small but well organized family business with decades of good reputation and happy customers.
It is a great salon. Very stylish, well designed, and with attention to detail. Thank you to Nerea and Noelia for their hairstyling skills and hospitality.
Lovely local bookstore. Thank you to Ana and Sandra for personal attention and readiness to look for the right book.
Special thank you to my friend Astrid, her son Gael and her partner Borja for practicing Spanish with me and for the great memories of Silleda.