`Evo3 Supports Reforestation Projects in Africa

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Evo3 Supports Reforestation Projects in Africa

Aug. 25, 2015
Lisa Radinovsky

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Stratis Camat­sos is not afraid to swim against the tide. Born in Mis­sis­sippi to Greek par­ents, he told Olive Oil Times that he moved to Greece with his fam­ily when he was twelve, headed to the UK and the USA to com­plete his edu­ca­tion, worked as an attor­ney in the US and Europe, and then returned to Greece again in 2013, in the mid­dle of the eco­nomic cri­sis.

He returned to launch evo3, which pro­duces and exports award-win­ning extra vir­gin organic olive oil (the 3 Os). Along with his father, George, Camat­sos quickly turned a small fam­ily busi­ness into a unique social enter­prise that sup­ports refor­esta­tion projects in Africa, works with a women’s coop­er­a­tive in Les­bos to pro­duce an unusual sweet olive jam, and plans to use aug­mented real­ity for afford­able mar­ket­ing.

The cir­cle of life begins and ends with trees.- Evo3

Camat­sos fondly remem­bers sum­mers in Les­bos dur­ing his child­hood, when he wan­dered through his grandfather’s olive groves and vis­ited the olive mill with his father, lis­ten­ing and observ­ing, struck by the smell of fresh olive oil. His father revived the family’s 10,000 neglected olive trees after he moved back to Les­bos, turn­ing to an EU sub­sidy for organic farm­ing to sup­port his renewed efforts.

Later, Stratis Camat­sos and his Hun­gar­ian wife Gyor­gyi Gur­ban, an envi­ron­men­tal law expert now work­ing for the United Nations Envi­ron­ment Pro­gramme in Athens, came up with the idea of using some of the pro­ceeds from olive oil sales to sup­port an envi­ron­men­tal­ist project. Camat­sos explained, I’m really pas­sion­ate about the envi­ron­ment, and I wanted to give some­thing back. At least leave the world as you found it, if not bet­ter — that should be the aim of every per­son. That’s what I’m striv­ing to do.” The result: for every bot­tle of evo3 olive oil or jam sold, a tree is planted in a defor­ested area.

Camat­sos chose to sup­port refor­esta­tion because the whole cycle of our prod­uct starts with the tree, ends with the tree.” He tried to find an NGO to work with in Greece, since many burned areas needed replant­ing, but high costs and red tape got in the way. Since he was just get­ting started with evo3, he could not con­tribute as much as NGOs needed for refor­esta­tion projects in Greece. But in the US, he found Eden Refor­esta­tion, a well-estab­lished NGO with projects already under­way in Ethiopia and Mada­gas­car. They were glad to accept any fund­ing they could get, and Camat­sos was pleased to learn that their projects went beyond the tree-plant­ing that spurred a regrowth of ecosys­tems to also sup­port the local economies: local work­ers were hired and trained to plant trees and care for them, inject­ing money into impov­er­ished vil­lages as well as improv­ing the soil qual­ity so crops could be grown for use and sale. New income led to less child labor and human traf­fick­ing, as well as new vil­lage schools. This is just what Camat­sos was look­ing for: It encap­su­lates the social enter­prise,” as he put it, and gives back to both peo­ple and the envi­ron­ment.

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Back in Greece, Camat­sos and his wife exper­i­mented with their own new recipes for a sweet olive jam. They turned to a small women’s coop­er­a­tive in the vil­lage of Parak­ila in Les­bos, where the women were happy to fine tune the recipe, sub­sti­tut­ing organic green olives for black ones for an even bet­ter result. Camat­sos said work­ing with the coop­er­a­tive makes the [product’s] cycle even more local and sus­tain­able.” Free of arti­fi­cial addi­tives and preser­v­a­tives, the jam has the tex­ture of finely chopped olives, their taste barely dis­cernible in a mix­ture more defined by the orange peel, cloves, lemon juice, and brown sugar in this nicely sweet and spicy spread, which is very good on toast.

Evo3 exports 90 per­cent of its annual seven to ten met­ric tons of organic extra vir­gin olive oil to Europe and North Amer­ica. Camat­sos was trou­bled by a com­plete lack of new orders and a stale­mate in nego­ti­a­tions with new cus­tomers dur­ing the three weeks banks were closed in Greece. A bank account in Bel­gium that he had opened when he lived there helped his busi­ness con­tinue, and orders resumed once the lat­est loan agree­ment was signed by Greece and its cred­i­tors. But Camat­sos crit­i­cizes the Greek gov­ern­ment for its lack of sup­port for the olive oil indus­try and espe­cially for small and medium enter­prises. The high taxes and exces­sive bureau­cracy make it dif­fi­cult, he said, to do busi­ness here. He con­tends that Greek olive oil pro­duc­ers need to unify, the gov­ern­ment must help with qual­ity cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, and the coun­try should focus on pro­duc­ing high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil that con­sumers learn to value enough to pay the higher prices it deserves.

Camat­sos has an inno­v­a­tive idea for small olive oil busi­nesses that can’t afford to hire mar­ket­ing firms but need to con­vince con­sumers to value their prod­ucts: use aug­mented real­ity, an app and a ser­vice that could give small pro­duc­ers a foothold via a more enhanced and immersed user expe­ri­ence.” An app could be designed so a tablet or smart­phone pointed at a par­tic­u­lar point could launch the user into an aug­mented real­ity expe­ri­ence that would come to life and tell you a story” about the prod­uct. The story could be con­veyed through a sim­ple video or some­thing more com­plex that would allow the user a 360-degree panoramic view of an olive grove, for exam­ple, or an African vil­lage that could be explored as the phone was rotated by the user. Although this has never been done in Greece, as far as he knows, Camat­sos sug­gested that this is the future of mar­ket­ing, espe­cially when tar­get­ing mil­len­ni­als. He believes the more a con­sumer can expe­ri­ence an item in the store,” the stronger the con­nec­tion will be between the pro­ducer and the con­sumer.

And that’s not all. Focus­ing on trans­parency, trust, envi­ron­men­tal­ism, and high qual­ity, Camat­sos plans to expand evo3 to hire more sea­sonal work­ers, export to more loca­tions, pro­duce salad dress­ings fea­tur­ing Mediter­ranean fla­vors, and sup­port more green projects in Greece (per­haps another refor­esta­tion project in the moun­tains around Athens, or work with the Atenistas NGO, which bright­ens impov­er­ished urban areas by mak­ing them greener).

Although the com­pany was just founded in 2013, evo3 has already won a Bronze Award for brand­ing at the Elaiotech­nia olive oil com­pe­ti­tion in Athens and a Sil­ver Award in the New York Inter­na­tional Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion in 2014, plus the Diplome Pro­duit Gourmet award at the World Edi­ble Oils AVPA Paris Con­test and a Great Taste Award at the gourmet com­pe­ti­tion in the UK this year. Accord­ing to their web­site, the cir­cle of life begins and ends with trees. Our aim is tak­ing oil to the soil / Organic for you, (r)evolutionary for the good of all mankind.”


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