UNESCO May Yet Give Andalusian Olive Trees Heritage Status

In Spain, local and national institutions and the whole local olive oil sector have met to get the prestigious UNESCO candidacy of Andalusian olive groves back on track.

By Paolo DeAndreis
Jan. 30, 2023 15:08 UTC

The com­mis­sion pro­mot­ing the Olive Grove Landscapes of Andalusia has met to solve a bureau­cratic road­block that emerged last week. The com­mis­sion has been try­ing to make the olive groves a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Olive farm­ers, asso­ci­a­tions, uni­ver­si­ties, cul­tural orga­ni­za­tions and regional and national author­i­ties are attempt­ing to deter­mine whether the UNESCO can­di­dacy can move for­ward with­out list­ing the olive groves in the Andalusian Historical Heritage cat­a­log.

The list­ing is cur­rently included as one of the steps needed to sup­port the can­di­dacy, upon which UNESCO should vote some­time next year.

See Also:Spain’s Sea of Olives Among the Candidates for UNESCO Recognition

The Andalusian branch of the Young Farmers Association (ASAJA), The Coordination of Farmers and Ranchers (COAG) and the Agri-food coop­er­a­tives warned the inclu­sion of olive farms into the Andalusian cat­a­log would neces­si­tate a new legal frame­work. That frame­work, in their view, would limit free enter­prise and farm­ers’ abil­ity to con­duct busi­ness.

Many new restric­tions will come into effect if olive groves are listed in the Andalusian cat­a­log. These include the reg­is­tra­tion of the listed site in the prop­erty reg­istry; an oblig­a­tion to pre­serve, main­tain, guar­an­tee and safe­guard the listed site; manda­tory con­ser­va­tion projects; the right of the Ministry of Culture to con­duct inspec­tions; a required avoid­ance of visual and per­cep­tive con­t­a­m­i­na­tion of the land­scape and farm­ers’ oblig­a­tion to notify the proper Ministry upon the com­ple­tion of any project or inter­ven­tion.

According to the three asso­ci­a­tions, the affected groves are farmswhose good pri­vate man­age­ment by their farm­ers not only allows their sur­vival but also con­sti­tutes the basis of the econ­omy of an entire agri-food sec­tor that is, in turn, the main source of wealth and employ­ment for more than 400 munic­i­pal­i­ties in Andalusia.”

Additionally, the three asso­ci­a­tions under­lined that they had sup­ported the UNESCO can­di­dacy since it was pro­posed in 2017. They will con­tinue to sup­port it if the Andalusian cat­a­log list­ing or its impli­ca­tions are avoided.

As reported by Viva Jaén, dur­ing the online meet­ing, which was trig­gered by the farm­ers’ objec­tions, the Deputy Minister for Culture in Spain, Ángel Vera, con­firmed that the Ministry of Culture and the Junta de Andalusia would soon express an opin­ion about remov­ing the require­ment for the farms to be listed in the Andalusian cat­a­log.

Should this be done, one of the main demands of the appeal pre­sented by the agrar­ian orga­ni­za­tions would be addressed, and farm­ers would be guar­an­teed the com­pat­i­bil­ity of the pro­tec­tion of this cul­tural her­itage with the uses of the farms and the right to prop­erty,” Vera said, as reported by Viva Jaén.

According to Francisco Casero, pres­i­dent of the National Savia Foundation, ded­i­cated to bring­ing back value to rural areas, a with­drawal of the olive groves’ UNESCO can­di­dacy would rep­re­sent a his­tor­i­cal error.”

While speak­ing with El País, he noted that they can­not be thrown over­board eight years of work to value a cul­tural land­scape with 180 mil­lion trees that is unique in the world.”

The inte­gra­tion of olive trees into the land­scape, the diverse land­scapes where olive trees grow, in addi­tion to the econ­omy and lifestyle of pop­u­la­tions through­out his­tory, have led to the accu­mu­la­tion of a wealth of cul­ture and a num­ber of indi­ca­tions that this tree, its fruit (the olive) and its oil are amongst the defin­ing fea­tures of the land­scape,” a UNESCO note cites, detail­ing the can­di­dacy.

Should the UNESCO can­di­dacy suc­ceed, the Andalusian groves would become Spain’s 49th World Heritage Site.

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