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Identification and conservation of the high nature value of ancient olive groves in the Mediterranean region

Place: Not Applicable, _NO_MAIN_REGION
Sustainable management of natural resources Sustainable management of natural resources
Total Budget: € 1.506.435,00 | Period: From February 2009 To October 2012


Most of the olive production in the world is linked to the Mediterranean area because of tradition and of the climatic conditions. Olive growing sector is very important for Mediterranean Basin. The whole Mediterranean landscape is characterized by the presence of olive groves, since olive trees are part of the ancient agricultural tradition of the Med area and of the social environment of the population living in those countries; oliviculture and the olive oil sector are among the most important agricultural value chains of the whole area. This is true for European Countries like Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal and France, and for Southern Mediterranean Countries like Tunisia, Lebanon, Morocco and others. The sector is important in terms of surface, production and market and it is strictly linked to many social aspects. Olive trees colonized our environment since centuries and show a rare ability to adapt to many severe environmental conditions. 


CIHEAM- Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari - Italy

Lead applicant

The Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari (MAIB) is a Centre for post-graduate training, applied scientific research and design of in-loco partnership actions in the framework of the international cooperation programmes. It works in four thematic areas: “Land and water resources management”, “Integrated pest management of Mediterranean fruit and vegetable crops”, “Mediterranean organic agriculture” and “Sustainable agriculture, food and rural development”.

Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania - Greece

Initiative partner

The Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania (MAICh) is the most recently established (1985) of the four Mediterranean Agronomic Institutes administered by the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM, whose General Secretariat resides in Paris-France. MAICh provides postgraduate education leading to the degree of Master of Science (M.Sc.) and undertakes basic and applied research related to the sectors of economics, rural development, management, and applied biological, technological and environmental sciences, addressing to problems in the Mediterranean area. Up until now, MAICh has been involved in many research and development projects, all of which have been conducted in close collaboration with Greek and other European academic and research institutions. These projects were financed by the Commission of the European Communities and other organizations. The annual budget contribution of the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania is entirely provided by the Greek government. MAICh provides the following advanced infrastructural resources equipped with the latest technological equipment for the academic support of the departments, researchers, students and third people: Greenhouses, Plant Preservation Facilities, Laboratories (Analytical Chemistry, Soil Science and Plant Diagnostics, Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Forest Fire Laboratory, Geographic Information System and Remote Sensing Laboratory), Library and Documentation Centre, Information Technology, Graphic Arts and Publishing Centre. Department of Business Economics and Management The Department of Business Economics and Management has gained widespread experience on issues related to the development of rural areas such as the strengthening of sustainable development patterns, the development of alternative forms of tourism, the promotion of agricultural products, etc. Other activities include the development of software specialised on statistics, operational research, financial analysis, market research and product promotion, combined with Real-Time Simulation Models ( Department of Horticultural Genetics & Biotechnology The Department of Horticultural Genetics & Biotechnology comprises one Studies/Research Coordinator (Dr Panagiotis Kalaitzis), two senior research fellows, three PhD students and a Research Technician. Within the last years, the Department was involved in the genetic diversity assessment as well as the morphological characterization of the Greek Olive germplasm using molecular markers in the framework of a project funded by EU entitled COMBINE and was dedicated to the transfer of knowledge on Turkish and Lebanese labs on the fingerprinting of olive varieties from the Southeast Mediterranean region. Recently a basic research grant was competitively awarded to the Department regarding agrofood forensics on Olive oil for the determination of the varietal origin of olive oil. Moreover, the Department coordinates an Intereg IIIC-South project on the collection, characterization and exploitation of endogenous vegetable, legume and cereals accessions from the islands of Crete and Aegean Sea. These accessions are characterized in terms of botanical and genetic diversity as the first step towards exploitation. In addition, there is under progress an effort to develop a methodology for the detection of sesame allergenic proteins in various foods in the framework of a bilateral project with Cyprus funded by GSRT, Greece. Another area of interest is the molecular basis of hypoxic response in plants using Arabidopsis and carnation plants as model system as well as the role of prolyl 4 hydroxylases in hypoxia and plant growth and development in collaboration with the Collagen Research Unit, University of Oulou, Finland.

Italian Ministry for the Environment and Protection of Land and Sea - Italy

Initiative partner

The Ministry ensures the promotion, protection and recovery of environmental conditions and quality of life, as well as the defence and development of the national natural heritage and of the environmental resources from pollution. The Ministry promotes and takes care of the performance of international agreements, EU directives and regulations regarding the environment and the natural heritage. Every 2 years it presents a report about the environment status to the Parliament. In addition, the Ministry has the functions relating to the atmospheric and acoustic pollution, the defence of water from pollution, as well as the functions regarding the rubbish elimination, the defence of soil and of the natural reserves and parks.

Apulia Region - Italy

Initiative partner

Coordination of the activities of Italian Regions and their technical agencies

Ancient Olive Orchards can cope with climate change challenges, are therefore important for people in Mediterranean Basin rural areas. Project activities were not only directed to the plant protection and animal biodiversity, but they were meant to relate the productive capacity of the territory to cultural heritage of people who live there. The project is a practical application of the Convention on Biological Diversity trend line and applied its integrated approach. Conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity were achieved through concrete actions and implementation of a socio-economic plan and of a model of governance for century old olive groves of Med area. Italian Ministry for the Environment (MATTM) with representatives from Greece, Spain, Portugal, Tunisia and Lebanon, drew up an Action Plan ancient olives conservation in Mediterranean; they mapped out common strategies for ancient olive trees conservation in order to ease the livelihood of local rural population

The proposed best practice has at least two main innovative aspects:
The first is that to achieve sustainable rural development, the protection and enhancement of natural capital (and hence of biodiversity), together with land productivity and promotion of its products, are to be taken into consideration in order to provide economic stability for farmers and local populations. This is particularly important in an area like the Mediterranean Basin where the high and unique richness of biodiversity, that for millennia has secured man the opportunity to take advantage of goods and ecosystem services. The second innovative aspect of the proposed practice is that ideas and lesson learnt from local experiences were promoted by technicians (bottom) to policy makers through the different actions of the project and in a second step were analyzed and agreed by policy makers (up) that wrote those in the "plan"

In the Mediterranean there is a widespread presence of ancient olive trees characterizing the landscape and managed following traditional agricultural practices. In Jordan, Lebanon and in more difficult areas of Morocco and Tunisia as well as in other Mediterranean Countries, the olive sector plays an active part in fighting rural depopulation by contributing to keep people in rural least-favored areas where olive growing is the only feasible crop. Many of these trees havef amazing dimensions and are difficult and costly to be taken care of. Therefore these tree orchards are not properly managed and are low or no more producing. With the growing attention to the natural and environmental value of the agricultural areas, many research works draw the attention of the scientific community to the high level of biodiversity present in such areas. This contributes to rise the global value that AOOs have for the whole community thanks to the ecosystem services.

Extra-EU Med Countries Figure – Extra-EU Med Countries - Breakdown of olive growing UAA according the age of the trees (ha and %)
Main threats of Ancient Olive Groves Main threats of Ancient Olive Groves in the Mediterranean Areas

The Italian Ministry of Environment  coordinated the elaboration of the Action Plan for the protection of AOOs in the Mediterranean region. Main results of the Action are: 1) establishment of a Consultation Table with policy maker of: Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Lebanon and Tunisia.  2) Collection of information and data concerning the scenario of ancient olive trees in the Euro-Mediterranean region trough a questionnaire to perform a Rapid Appraisal; 3) Identification of the main issues related to their protection and enhancement; 4) Identification and prioritization of main objectives, tools and actions for the valorization of the AOOs; 5) Identification and analysis of policies protecting ancient olive trees or high nature value agricultural habitats that are applied in other geographic areas or contexts. 6) A common and agreed definition of the AOOs as HNVF was achieved. 7)The Action Plan for the Med area was agreed.

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Approach for Conservation Of Ancient Olive Orchards A Multi-Scale and Multi-Level Approach for Conservation Of Ancient Olive Orchards in The Euro-Mediterranean Region. A shared and concerted approach to the formulation of an Action Plan aiming to protection and conservation of the Ancient Olive Orchards in the Mediterranean Region in italian language.

Following the definition of the Convention on Biological Diversity of UN, the project developed actions aimed to set up a sustainable and integrated conservation system from the field to the territory governance level, promoting conservation of AOOs in the Euro-Mediterranean areas through involvement of major actors and Authorities concerned (Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia and Lebanon).The document is a tool for "policy makers" who intend to preserve and promote the agro-ecosystem of AOOs, because this traditional agricultural system represents the highest form of integration of rural development with Biodiversity and the ecosystem services at any level. Beneficiaries are all stakeholders of rural areas where AOOs are present because the plan contains: 1)collection of actions and best practices that proved to be effective in promoting sustainable development of rural areas in Apulia and Greece; 2) commitment in implementing actions and best practices; 3) proposals on funding

Beneficiaries scheme Table where are listed Players, Actions and Effects
Local stakeholders Example of the local stakeholders involved by the governance model included in the action plan

In the setting up of the final document - EuMed Action Plan were involved 19 people having different roles and giving different contributions coming from different countries and institutions.They had different skills and capacities such as: Public officers and policy makers from Ministries of Agriculture and Environment, Country delegates of the Universidad de Córdoba Spain and Instituto da Conservacao da Natureza e da Biodiversidade Portugal, consultants, researchers and scientists from the International Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari and Chania. 

Human resources involved in the project Human resources involved in the project
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Human resources involved List of all persons involved in the initiative

Target area in Greece was very small and there were some difficulties in collecting the consensus of other farmers to achieve the implementation of the local governance model although a very good job was done from MAICh colleagues. Actually most of the problems that arose in achieving the project results came from bureaucratic times or were due to unpredictable events.The bureaucratic times created problems in the implementation of the concrete conservation actions (building of rubble walls or in the setting up of the nursery and of the collection field (germplasm bank)). Some problems of political origin (arab spring) hampered the start of the Mediterranean Action Plan but they were managed in a way that the final meaning and the long term effect of the action itself was respected. It was challenging to identify consistent and reproducible principles and with their rich geographic and cultural tradition on olive trees, the Mediterranean countries are the forerunners.  

Being a life project the environmental impact of the concrete actions and of the policy action foreseen was monitored. Some specific indicators (species of flora and fauna) and a continuous monitoring activity was carried on that are further more described in the document attached. 

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Some useful monitoring indicators Some useful monitoring indicators

During the project a better knowledge was achieved about the value of Ancient Olive Orchards and their presence in Med countries and better awareness of their value for local rural populations. The foreseeable impact of the AOOs valorization for local population was quantified.
Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Agriculture sent a questionnaire (adapted by MAIB) to the Councillorships of Environment and of Agriculture of the different Italian regions to collect information about the presence (or absence) of AOOs and involved the regions in the process of valorization of such areas.
A technical table with Country representatives of the CBD and of the Governments was set up and called EU-Med Consultation Table.
A common definition of AOOs as HNVF was achieved by the members, coming from different background situations.
Common strategies to be implemented in each country for a rural sustainable development of such areas were achieved and reported in the “Med plan”.

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Areas covered by Ancient Olive Orchards Areas covered by Ancient Olive Orchards
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Protection objectives shared at EU-Med level All the actions reported in the plan are proved to be transferrable in any of the areas covered by AOOs but some more initiative can prove transferability of action and sustainability of the achievements and are reported in the document.

As already made during the project implementation, the most important dissemination activities foreseen are:
• Development of dissemination materials: videos and documentary film, web material, brochures/leaflets/comics (specially addressed to scholars);
• Organizing and participating in dissemination events: conferences, seminars, exhibitions, meetings and field demonstration;
• Preparation of publications, articles, posters and communications;
• Shares in press and television broadcasting
The spreading of information within the dissemination activities run by the institutional partners will be ensured by Regione Puglia at the local level, by the Ministry of the Environment and Land and Sea Protection at the national and European level, by MAIB and MAICh. at the level of the Mediterranean region.
Moreover, the maintenance of the Internet site enables an even larger spreading offering to all those who are interested to access the information material.

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf 2nd Progress Report Progress report on the project's second year activities.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf 3rd Progress Report Progress report on the project's third year activities.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Action plan A shared and concerted approach to the formulation of an Action Plan aiming to protection and conservation of the Ancient Olive Orchards in the Mediterranean Region
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf First progress report Progress report on the project's first year activities.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Governance model for century olive groves Governance model for century olive groves of Torre Guaceto natural reservation.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Guidelines for the Management of Biodiversity in english language Guidelines for the Management of Biodiversity in Century-Old Olive Groves in english language
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Guidelines for the Management of Biodiversity in greek language Guidelines for the Management of Biodiversity in Century-Old Olive Groves in greek language.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Guidelines for the Management of Biodiversity in italian language Guidelines for the Management of Biodiversity in Century-Old Olive Groves in italian language.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Laymans’ Report This publication is intended to help the reader in understanding the scientic bases of such richness, the pressures that threaten it and related possible solutions. It addresses to everybody: to farmers, technicians and professional associations, local communities, management authorities of protected areas, local governments, and especially young generations.