Following the devastating summer fires in Greece, a global campaign has been launched to restore the burnt-out olive groves of ancient Olympia, birthplace of the Olympics and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Large tracts of farmland and forest around the archaeological site of Olympia were consumed by fires in August, the second time the region and the wider Ilia region in the western Peloponnese suffered such a disaster after the 2007 forest fires.
We originally planned to replant 80,000 to 100,000 olive trees, but thanks to the huge support from individuals and companies… we managed to raise €800,000, enough to plant 150,000 trees.
According to recent estimates, more than 400,000 olive trees have been burnt down this summer, robbing local farmers of their livelihoods.
The purpose of the ‘Replant ancient Olympia’ fundraiser is to provide farmers with new olive seedlings, with the dual purpose of helping the local rural economy recover from the fires and restoring the olive groves of ancient Olympia.
See also: Greece to compensate olive growers affected by summer fires
The campaign invites individuals, businesses and organizations to plant an olive tree in ancient Olympia, with results so far exceeding expectations.
“The response to our campaign has been overwhelming,” said Yanos Gramatidis, former president of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and one of the campaign’s spearheads. Olive Oil Times.
“We originally planned to replant 80,000 to 100,000 olive trees, but thanks to the huge support of individuals and companies, we managed in a few months to raise €800,000, enough to plant 150,000 trees,” he said. -he adds.
“Together with Nektarios Farmakis, the Regional Governor of Western Greece, we had to do something to overcome the devastating impact of the fires and restore the local economy, which is largely dependent on olive and olive oil production,” continued Gramatidis.
“Even after replanting, it will take years for local growers to recover,” he said, acknowledging the difficulties faced. “It is a complicated undertaking which requires the advice and supervision of farmers and, above all, the assessment of the real damage.
In the United States, the campaign is led by Dianne Tittle de Laet and Steve de Laet of the Arete Fund, an international non-profit organization based in Mountain View, California. The project quickly gained popularity and received overwhelming support from local Californians and others.
“We were amazed at how many Californians, whose homes and forests were also devastated by wildfires last August, planted olive trees in ancient Olympia to thank firefighters in their own communities,” said declared the de Laets. Olive Oil Times.
“Individuals gave what they could in memory of a loved one or to plant trees for their family or to commemorate sports teams. Companies, non-profit organizations and Athens International Airport have planted trees for their employees,” they added.
The project is also expected to open up new avenues to improve the daily work and prospects of local farmers.
“This initiative is the first step towards starting conversations about promoting sustainability and entrepreneurship on these smallholdings, as well as discussions about how to prevent future wildfires,” said de Laets. “Initial discussions are underway to develop an agricultural school in Olympia to educate young farmers in all aspects of farming methods, sustainability and management.
The de Laets also met Farmakis, the local governor, and the mayor of the contemporary city of ancient Olympia, Giorgos Georgopoulos, with the three parties pledging to do everything so that the initiative “take root.”
“These people have come to tell us not only that they are present, but that they have started a process of attracting capital from the United States for the reforestation of the region,” Farmakis said after the meeting.
He noted the importance of planting the olive tree, which is the symbol tree of Greece and ancient Olympia.
“Besides being a symbol of peace and solidarity, it is also a source of income for our region,” he added.
All campaign donors are exempt from 24% VAT (sales tax) and other taxes. They will also receive a letter of appreciation from Farmakis, including a photo of the land that benefited from their contribution.
The organizers have also set a precise timetable for the delivery of the first olive seedlings to the farmers.
“Our deadline to purchase and deliver the olive trees to local communities for replanting is the end of March,” Gramatidis said. “We are still counting on additional support from donors to help us close the gap and reach our new goal of replanting 200,000 trees.
“But it’s not just about the economic devastation,” he added. “Olympia is a recognized worldwide symbol of human excellence, and the olive tree, whose branches crowned the winners of the games, a symbol of peace and harmony. It is a symbol of the Olympic ideal, but above all, the olive tree connects us Greeks to our traditions, our roots and our values.