Campaign Aims to Replant Olive Trees of Olympia

Thousands of olive tree saplings will be handed out to local farmers to replant in the charred olive groves of Ancient Olympia.
Burned olive trees in Olympia (Photo: Olympia-trees.com)
Feb. 11, 2022
Costas Vasilopoulos

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In the wake of the dev­as­tat­ing sum­mer fires in Greece, a global cam­paign has been launched to restore the fire-stricken olive groves of Ancient Olympia, the birth­place of the Olympic Games and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Large swathes of agri­cul­tural and for­est land around the archae­o­log­i­cal site of Olympia were con­sumed by the blazes in August, the sec­ond time the area and the wider Ilia region in west­ern Peloponnese suf­fered such a dis­as­ter after the 2007 for­est fires.

We ini­tially set out to replant 80,000 to 100,000 olive trees, but thanks to the enor­mous sup­port of indi­vid­u­als and cor­po­rate donors… we man­aged to raise €800,000, enough to plant 150,000 trees.- Yanos Gramatidis, cam­paigner

According to recent assess­ments, more than 400,000 olive trees were burned down this sum­mer, depriv­ing local farm­ers of their means of liveli­hood.

The goal of the Replanting Ancient Olympia’ fundrais­ing cam­paign is to sup­ply farm­ers with new olive tree saplings, serv­ing the twofold 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 Impacted by Summer Fires

The cam­paign invites indi­vid­u­als, cor­po­ra­tions and orga­ni­za­tions to plant an olive tree in Ancient Olympia, with the results so far exceed­ing expec­ta­tions.

The response to our cam­paign has been over­whelm­ing,” Yanos Gramatidis, for­mer pres­i­dent of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and one of the spear­heads of the cam­paign, told Olive Oil Times.

We ini­tially set out to replant 80,000 to 100,000 olive trees, but thanks to the enor­mous sup­port of indi­vid­u­als and cor­po­rate donors, in a mat­ter of a few short months we man­aged to raise €800,000, enough to plant 150,000 trees,” he added.

Together with Nektarios Farmakis, the regional gov­er­nor of Western Greece, we needed 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,” Gramatidis con­tin­ued.

Even after we replant, it will take local pro­duc­ers years to recover,” he said, acknowl­edg­ing the dif­fi­cul­ties involved. It is a com­pli­cated ven­ture requir­ing the advice and super­vi­sion of agri­cul­tur­ists, and, most impor­tantly, the assess­ment of the real dam­age.”

In the United States, the cam­paign is run by Dianne Tittle de Laet and Steve de Laet of the Arete Fund, an inter­na­tional non­profit orga­ni­za­tion based in Mountain View, California. The project quickly gained pop­u­lar­ity and received over­whelm­ing sup­port from local Californians and oth­ers.

We have been amazed by how many Californians, whose homes and forests were also dev­as­tated by wild­fires this past August, planted olive trees in Ancient Olympia as a way of giv­ing thanks to the fire­fight­ers in their own com­mu­ni­ties,” the de Laets told Olive Oil Times.

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Photo: Olympia-trees.com

Individuals gave what they could in mem­ory of a loved one or to plant trees for their fam­i­lies or to com­mem­o­rate sports teams. Companies, non­prof­its and the Athens International Airport planted trees for their employ­ees,” they added.

The project is also expected to open up new path­ways for improv­ing the every­day work and the prospects of local farm­ers.

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Yanos Gramatidis

This ini­tia­tive is the first step toward start­ing con­ver­sa­tions around pro­mot­ing sus­tain­abil­ity and entre­pre­neur­ship on these small farms, as well as dis­cus­sions about how to pre­vent future wild­fires,” the de Laets said. Initial dis­cus­sions are tak­ing place to develop an agri­cul­tural school in Olympia to edu­cate young farm­ers in all aspects of agri­cul­tural meth­ods, sus­tain­abil­ity and man­age­ment.”

The de Laets also met with Farmakis, the local gov­er­nor, and the mayor of the con­tem­po­rary town of Ancient Olympia, Giorgos Georgopoulos, with all three sides pledg­ing to do every­thing for the ini­tia­tive to take root.”

These peo­ple came to tell us, not only that they are present, but that they have begun a process of attract­ing cap­i­tal from the U.S. for the refor­esta­tion of the region,” Farmakis said after the meet­ing.

He noted the sig­nif­i­cance of plant­ing the olive tree, which are the tree sym­bol of Greece and Ancient Olympia.

Apart from being a sym­bol of peace and sol­i­dar­ity, it is also a source of liveli­hood for our region,” he added.

All cam­paign donors are relieved of the 24 per­cent 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 spe­cific time­line for the first olive tree saplings to be deliv­ered to farm­ers.

Our dead­line to pur­chase and deliver the olive trees to the local com­mu­ni­ties for replant­ing is the end of March,” Gramatidis said. We are still count­ing on addi­tional donor sup­port to help us close the gap and meet our new goal of replant­ing 200,000 trees.”

But it’s not just about the eco­nomic dev­as­ta­tion,” he added. Olympia is a rec­og­nized global sym­bol of human excel­lence, and the olive tree, whose branches crowned the vic­tors of the games, a sym­bol of peace and har­mony. It’s a sym­bol of the Olympic Ideal, but most impor­tantly, the olive tree links us Greeks to our tra­di­tions, roots and val­ues.”



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