Xavier Hancock shares his passion for sustainable living and gives us a sneak peek into his new eco-restoration project.
Xavier Hancock has lived on Gozo for twenty years and visited for over forty. After steering his energy away from his first business Gozo Adventures, he has managed a short-let farmhouse which now, like many others on Gozo, hang in the balance – at least for the foreseeable future. As well as being a father of four and having had a houseful on lockdown he has been dedicating remote time to his passion project, an eco-reforestation site based in Portugal, plus he has launched an enlightening and educational YouTube series on how to start an Urban Garden here on Gozo.
This summer was supposed to look quite different for Xavier and his family. They were due to fly to Portugal to continue work on their family-run project focussing on necessary land regeneration and reforestation. Then COVID19 happened.
For those that don’t know, and according to Wikipedia, Restoration Ecology is the scientific study supporting the practice of ecological restoration, which to you and I, is the renewing and restoring of damaged or destroyed land and forests with a large community of plants, animals and microbes. Usually, the land in question has been damaged by active human intervention and requires explicit handling to restore it to its’ fullest glory. Natural ecosystems provide vital resources such as food, fuel and wood, alongside the purification of air and water, detoxification and decomposition of wastes, climate regulation, regeneration of soil fertility and the pollination of crops. All necessary stuff to survive!
With permaculture, natural building and living in harmony with nature featuring high on his priority list, Portugal was the perfect place for Xavier to look for land. Known for it’s rich, lush forests, it would certainly placate his passion for off-grid living. He was particularly drawn to the plot he ended up buying, three hectares of forest with freshwater sources, but little did he know that two months later, the surrounding area would fall victim to one of the largest super fires in its history.
Returning to the area after the fires was most definitely one of the saddest things Xavier had ever experienced. “There were kilometres upon kilometres of burnt forests, leaving a graveyard of blackened tree trunks” Xavier reported. But the fires had seemed to stop at the boundaries to his land leaving an oasis of green in an area of black.
Libelinha Venture, got its name from the abundance of dragonfly occupying the land and after spending time interacting with terrain, Xavier and his team of volunteers realised that forest management was key to its’ restoration. They knew it was a fire hazard waiting to happen therefore a forest management plan to include securing the surrounding land had to be implemented. Acquiring the extra land would create a fire break as added protection. They went from three to ten hectares and their all-important ReWilding project began.
As well as clearing, building and planting crops, they have been replacing the quick-growing, highly flammable, cash crops trees rapidly taking over the hillsides with native hardwoods such as oak, cork oak, walnut, chestnut and fruit trees to avoid the spread of future forest fires. To date, they have seeded over 3000 acorns. A mighty achievement.
Xavier and his family know this is a long term commitment with no quick fix and if they can help educate landowners to the benefits of planting hardwood trees along the way, then he feels it’s time well spent. Ultimately though, this is a lifestyle choice and eventually, they want to create a sustainable off-grid community. Their focus is for Libelinha Venture to become a blueprint for the future for us all and create an experience for visitors and travellers through volunteering projects, workshops and holiday experiences.
For now, Corona Virus has grounded him on Gozo and without exception, deepened his motives for this project and helping others to become more self-sufficient. Launching his Urban Gardening series has been fun whilst at home on lockdown and he involves the whole family. The series aims to inspire those without land, to live more sustainably and research fun, cheap and easy ways to grow your own food in an urban environment. There are some great tips in the series shot on Gozo, we particularly like the potato and tomato planter episodes.
As well as keeping busy in front of the camera, himself and his partner naturally take education seriously and so schooling takes centre stage. His partner has recently completed her Montessori Training so they have cleverly established a small day school in their garden and every morning the children have access to activities, crafts and play. He is also motivating his eldest, an art, ceramics and design student, to unplug and get involved in new fun earthy projects.
Xavier understands how precious life is. “The world and system we live in is very fragile and no matter who you are or what you do, it’s time to start thinking about being more self reliant and self sustainable because if the system collapses, you need to maintain the basic needs of life.“
GITH are offering up thanks to folk like Xavier who is continuously committed to inspiring and educating us on the land and spaces we live in. We shall be following his journey ardently.