Toca do Coelho: A collective bringing together art and agriculture in Algarve, Portugal

For our third edition of The Earth Issue, we spoke to the Toca do Coelho collective about the vision and ideas that drive their inspiring project.

Photography by Elizabeth Fleur Willis
Originally published in The Earth Issue 002: IMPACT

Toca de Coelho is a permaculture farm and creative hub developed by the Konijn collective – a group of artists and performers from the Netherlands with a long history of organizing cultural events. Konjin set up a base in the hills of Algarve, near Alferce, a region that is environmentally degraded due to intensive land use and drought. Here, they fixed up a house, designed a permaculture garden, and built their own irrigation systems. With healthy soil and a diversity of crops, Toca do Coelho contributes to creating a more resilient ecosystem. For our third edition of The Earth Issue, we spoke to the Toca do Coelho collective about the vision and ideas that drive their inspiring project.

Could you introduce Toca do Coelho to us?

Toca do Coelho is an open community, also called an ‘open house’, meaning that anyone who walks up this mountain will be welcomed and have the opportunity to come and join us in trying to create a more sustainable paradise. We are an agroforestry, permaculture project, creating and helping to support a space in which people can come and be free. We encourage a different way of living, and invite everyone to come and learn how to be as sustainable as we can be.

Toca is as much an educational, as well as a creative experience. Its about being part of this community together, growing together. We especially inspire people to be creative and take part in ongoing projects. We hope that whoever walks into Toca’s life, will feel at home when they do.

“We want to encourage people to produce everything that we have, that we live with… everything in a sustainable way… We have taken so much from the earth, from our home and it is time for us to give back – and this is our way of doing it.”

Do you see this project as an antithesis to how most people live their lives – especially in cities? 

People actually mostly visit this project from the cities. A lot of influence of what happens here comes from city-life. Our focus is on creative freedom, heavily based on finding and unlocking the true potential of your creativity. A lot of this also happens within the city – so in that way its not really an antithesis.

A lot of communities that exist in this area don’t necessarily feel the need to step away from society and the city life, to run away from it. Toca isn’t about running away from the city, its about finding a way of integrating the amazing advances in technology and bringing them together with nature – to find a balance between them both. While we realize the importance and diversity of nature, we realize there is strength in the diversity of people too – and this strength is mostly found in the cities. There are so many different cultures and different types of people coming together. We try to be open and welcoming to anyone who comes along to Toca.

What is the current state of the Toca do Coelho region in Portugal, and what motivated you to re-cultivate this particular eco-system?

The current state of Portugal in general is in a pretty bad way, as with a lot of places in the world. We have a big problem with desertification, there’s whole areas of Portugal that are turning into desert. Here specifically, where Toca is based, the land has been struggling with low and steadily dropping water levels for the past 30 years. The effects of this are visible – rains are coming later and later, year after year and it’s getting drier and hotter.

70% of the land area in Algarve is covered by a monoculture of eucalyptus – and this is contributing in a big way to the destruction of our ecosystem. That’s been something that has motivated us to try and bring it more under control – to try and offer up a little bit of biodiversity for this area.

Read the rest in Earth Issue 002: IMPACT.