The island of Madeira is part of an autonomous region of Portugal, off the northwest coast of Africa. It was first settled in the 15th century and has about 250,000 inhabitants. Most live in the island’s capital of Funchal, a city that spreads, amphitheatre-style, from a low-lying bay area up ever-steeper hillsides.
Deforestation caused by livestock grazing on this hilly volcanic island has led to serious erosion and flooding. Desertification and invasive species pose an ever-growing threat to the island.
To address these problems, the government established the 1,000-hectare Ecological Park of Funchal in the mountains above the city. Seacology is providing support for the reforestation of the park’s highest mountain, 5,600-foot Pico de Arreiro. The project is being carried out by a small local organization, Associaçao de Amigos, which engages local street children and orphans in tree plantings and other fun ecological activities.