Life blooms again for village - with adoption of trees

The olive trees of Oliete, a village in Spain, are waiting for "godparents" to adopt them.
The olive trees of Oliete, a village in Spain, are waiting for "godparents" to adopt them.PHOTO: APADRINAUNOLIVO.ORG

SPAIN • The olive trees of Oliete, a village in Teruel, were dying through neglect - until four years ago.

Located in one of the most deserted areas of Europe and, due to rural exodus, Oliete's 100,000 olive trees seemed doomed to dry out - until hundreds of "godparents" came to their rescue.

In 2014, Mr Alberto Alfonso, 41, and Ms Sira Plana, 40, created Apadrina Un Olivo (Adopt an olive tree), a non-profit organisation hoping to create jobs in the Spanish village, save its 100-year-old ecosystem and bring life back to a dying region.

Mr Alfonso is one of Oliete's many residents who emigrated to Barcelona for work. Each year, he would go back to his family's farm for the olive harvest and noticed the empty and neglected neighbouring fields. There was nobody left to work on them, and 70 per cent of the trees had been abandoned.

"He said to me, 'The village is dying, we have to do something'," said Ms Plana. Her grandfather was the village veterinarian in the 1950s, and her parents had emigrated to Madrid.

The organisation offered the world the opportunity to adopt one olive tree for €50 (S$77) a year. Donors would receive two litres of oil from each harvest. Some 500 donations were obtained in the first year. By the end of last year, 2,450 olive trees had been adopted, with most of the donations coming from France and Germany.

Ms Nicole Escolier, a 68-year-old French woman, is godmother to four trees. She and her husband visit the village at least twice a year.

 

Since its launch, the non-profit organisation has saved more than 7,000 olive trees and created 14 jobs, two of which attracted families with children from other Spanish regions to the village.

Oliete's Mayor Ramiro Alfonso said: "It brought life back into the village, it attracted families with children... Population decline is one of the main concerns in the rural world and (the initiative) helped stop it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2018, with the headline 'Life blooms again for village - with adoption of trees'. Print Edition | Subscribe