Publication: Book chapter
Silveira, A. et al. 2018. “The sustainability of agricultural intensification in the early 21st century: insights from the olive oil production in Alentejo (Southern Portugal)”. In Changing Societies: Legacies and Challenges. Vol. iii. The Diverse Worlds of Sustainability, eds. A. Delicado, N. Domingos and L. de Sousa. Lisbon: Imprensa de Ciências Sociais, 247-275.
In the Portuguese context the Alentejo region seems to be undergoing a process of rapid agricultural intensification, despite its dry Mediterranean climate and a tradition of extensive, multi-functional agricultural systems. This has been fuelled by local, national, European, and global factors and processes, in close alignment with the dynamics of urban-financial capitalism. Specific drivers include a long-standing public investment in the Alqueva irrigation system, national and eu agricultural policies, and recent strategies of financial investment in agriculture-related assets, especially since the 2008 global financial crisis. Although the two modes of production continue to coexist in the region, the transition from a long lived model of extensive agricultural production toward a predominantly intensive mode of agriculture has been extremely fast.
The chapter addresses the sustainability of the ongoing agricultural intensification and financialization processes. We explore how this is taking place in the area of influence of the Alqueva irrigation system since 2002, when the system’s main dam was completed. We focus on olive oil production, which in 2017 occupied 57% of the newly irrigated land (edia 2017). The process of agricultural intensification in southern Portugal is relatively new, and there is an urge to better understand its contours, mechanisms, and potential implications.