Millenary Olive Trees in Spain Named Global Agricultural Heritage Site

The millenary olive trees of Sénia, a territory that stretches in between Barcelona and Valencia, have been formally recognized by the as an important agricultural heritage site.

Jan. 22, 2019
By Rosa Gonzalez-Lamas

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The United Nations’ Food and Agri­cul­ture Orga­ni­za­tion has offi­cially rec­og­nized the mil­lenary olive trees in the Span­ish ter­ri­tory of Sénia as a Glob­ally Impor­tant Agri­cul­tural Her­itage Sys­tem (GIAHS). They are being rec­og­nized for their cul­ti­va­tion along with the trade of their olives and oils.

In this area, as the Via Augusta passed through here, it was an impor­tant region dur­ing Roman times. There are a lot of olive trees that remain from that period.- Amador Peset, mil­lenary olive tree restorer

The dis­tinc­tion con­tributes to an already dynamic con­ser­va­tion effort that attempts to main­tain a bal­ance between the preser­va­tion of the ter­ri­to­ry’s essen­tial com­po­nents and its eco­nomic and social devel­op­ment through the incor­po­ra­tion of ele­ments that add value with­out mod­i­fy­ing its essence.

Located in spe­cific sites around the world, GIAHS are out­stand­ing land­scapes of aes­thetic beauty that com­bine the pro­tec­tion and stim­u­la­tion of agri­cul­tural bio­di­ver­sity, resilient ecosys­tems and a valu­able cul­tural her­itage.

See more: Olive Oil Cul­ture

They sus­tain­ably pro­vide goods and ser­vices, food and liveli­hood secu­rity for mil­lions of small-scale farm­ers in sys­tems threat­ened by fac­tors, such as cli­mate change, increased com­pe­ti­tion for nat­ural resources and migra­tion due to low eco­nomic via­bil­ity.

Addi­tion­ally, they must main­tain the local know-how in the man­age­ment of nat­ural resources; help add value to social orga­ni­za­tions and cul­tural sys­tems, with pre-exist­ing val­ues already asso­ci­ated to food pro­duc­tion; and rec­og­nize the long-last­ing inter­ac­tion of peo­ple with their nat­ural sur­round­ings.


The Agri­cul­tural Sys­tem Ancient Olive Trees Ter­ri­to­rio Sénia is one of Europe’s first GIAHS and, along with the Olive Groves of the Slopes between Assisi and Spo­leto, one of only two related to olive cul­ti­va­tion and oil pro­duc­tion on the con­ti­nent.

Séni­a’s can­di­dacy to the GIAHS group was pre­sented by Taula de Sénia with the col­lab­o­ra­tion of the Asso­ci­a­tion Ter­ri­to­rio del Sénia and the sup­port of Spain’s Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, Fish­eries and Food.

Taula del Sénia is a com­mon­wealth-like insti­tu­tion formed by 27 munic­i­pal­i­ties from Valen­cia, Cat­alo­nia and Aragón, all of which are linked by their geog­ra­phy, his­tory, lan­guage, cul­ture and hav­ing the largest con­cen­tra­tion of mil­lenary olive trees in the world: 4,580 olive trees with perime­ters greater than 3.50 meters (11.50 feet) ris­ing above 1.30 meters (4.25 feet).

In 2009 Taula del Sénia began an offi­cial cen­sus of the ancient trees, many of which had long been aban­doned, but pre­served because of the rel­a­tive under­de­vel­op­ment of the region until recently.

Taula del Sénia fos­tered the cre­ation of Asso­ci­a­tion Ter­ri­to­rio del Sénia, which brought together the insti­tu­tion encom­pass­ing the munic­i­pal­i­ties and the region’s eco­nomic sec­tors, includ­ing olive mills and the own­ers of the land where the olives trees are located.

One of the Asso­ci­a­tion’s top projects is Oil and Mil­lenary Olives Trees of Sénia, an ini­tia­tive that has helped rec­og­nize the value of this unique liv­ing her­itage.

Among the most impor­tant efforts of the project is the recov­ery of the mil­lenary olive trees for the pro­duc­tion of olive oil, thereby using the ances­tral agri­cul­tural sys­tems as the foun­da­tion for agri­cul­tural inno­va­tion. Syn­er­gies with the local restau­rant sec­tor have been cre­ated by propos­ing the use of these oils.

Tourism is another vehi­cle to max­i­mize the poten­tial of the ter­ri­tory, which expects to heighten its pro­file after the GIAHS des­ig­na­tion.

To facil­i­tate vis­its to the largest mil­lenary olive trees, eight areas in munic­i­pal and pri­vate land plots have been iden­ti­fied: Alca­nar, Canet lo Roig, Vinaròs, La Sénia, Godall, Càlig, Trai­quera and Ullde­cona. Agree­ments with own­ers of pri­vate plots with very old trees have been made to allow for the vis­its.

Addi­tion­ally, two open-air muse­ums have been cre­ated in Arión and Pou del Mas, two of the areas with the great­est con­cen­tra­tion of mil­lenary trees and, in the Cat­alon­ian por­tion of the Sénia, three itin­er­aries have been designed allow­ing vis­i­tors to walk or ride bicy­cles through 40 miles of con­ve­niently sign­posted roads.

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