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.

By Rosa Gonzalez-Lamas
Jan. 22, 2019 06:37 UTC

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 Also: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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