On Tuesday June 8, 2010, the Agricultural University of Athens presented in its Ceremony Hall the “Programme for Agronomists from the Fire-Stricken Regions”, which took place during the period October 2008–March 2010. This programme was funded by the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation in the context of its nationwide ''It is Our Duty'' initiative.
The primary purpose of the “Programme for Agronomists from the Fire-Stricken Regions” was to increase the agronomists’ knowledge and expand their ability to take action and to promote the policies required to develop their local economies and societies, the underlying objective being to achieve a practical application of fresh knowledge in the course of pilot development projects, which they themselves submitted, planned, and are implementing in their fire-stricken regions. The programme went into effect in the 7 prefectures most seriously affected by the fires, specifically the Prefectures of Achaia, Arcadia, Corinth, Euboea, Ileia, Laconia, and Messinia.
During the first phase of the programme (November 2008–February 2009) 42 specialized scientists assisted in training 52 agronomists from the affected regions. The focus was on issues dealing with the politics of agricultural development, new approaches to the fields of plant and animal production, the agrarian environment, and, in general, issues dealing with the consequences of the fires in their regions and the activities and policies necessary for regional reconstruction.
The objective of the second phase of the programme (March 2009–March 2010) was to draw up new pilot development projects and farming and livestock business ventures compatible with the characteristics of each region and able to transform the terrible catastrophe that occurred into an opportunity for model development, as well as into an incentive for the rural population to remain in the fire-stricken regions. Of a total of 57 proposals submitted, 16 were selected, according to the criteria of potential local government support, their viability, and their multiplying effects in the fire-afflicted regions. These were then developed and analyzed with the invaluable assistance of 12 specialized members of the scientific teaching staff of the Agricultural University of Athens and 4 external consultants. The particular projects - proposals were presented to local society and extensively discussed with the rural population in an effort to secure their active participation.
In the context of the presentation of the programme, Professor George Zervas, the Rector of the Agricultural University of Athens, as well as the programme’s scientific director, greeted the audience, pointing out that
''The programme was one more effort on the part of our university community to contribute to the restoration and development of the fire-stricken regions, which must constitute a historic opportunity to plan viable development as a process involving interdependent economic, social, and environmental parameters”.
Moreover, John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation Executive Board Secretary Mr. Dimitris Afendoulis pointed out in his speech that
''The funding of this programme is completely in line with the basic priorities of the Foundation’s public benefit activities, which seek to encourage the educational and research endeavours of Greek universities, to promote, in every possible way, the young regional scientists of Greece, to develop partnerships at all levels between universities, the Greek state, and regional self government, with the Foundation as the common link, to strive to improve the life of every Greek citizen and every Greek family, as well as to protect the environment and improve environmental education in our country”.
Subsequently, Ms. Sophia Efstratoglou, professor emeritus of the Agricultural University of Athens and the training programme coordinator, gave a speech on “The Training Programme for Agronomists from the Fire-Stricken Regions: From Agricultural Education to Development Activities”. Professor Efstratoglou emphasized the fact that
“This programme established the basis tenets of cooperation and it is just the first of the development projects that are expected to expand and create multiplicative benefits for the fire-affected regions. The implementation and expansion of these activities presupposes that state support will ensure their financing, primarily through the Rural Development Programme of Greece 2007–2013 of the Ministry of Rural Development and Food”.
Last to speak was Special Secretary Mr. Evangelos Divaris of the Rural Development and Food Ministry’s Administrative Sector for Community Resources and Infrastructure, who in his discourse on “The Alexandros Baltatzis Rural Development Programme (RDP) for Greece 2007–2013: Possibilities and Prospects for Rural Development” characterized the “Programme for Agronomists from the Fire-Stricken Regions” as an initiative that “simultaneously demonstrates the significant possibilities for a partnership between the society of citizens and the academic community, with, each time, state assistance, whenever necessary and whenever the state is able to act”. At the same time, he highlighted that
“almost all the measures of the Rural Development Programme give priority to promoting projects in the fire-afflicted regions, based on scoring criteria. He added that “total national expenditure for RDP outlays is calculated at around 5.3 billion euros, of which 3.9 billion euros constitute the contribution of the European Community (from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development—EAFRD), while 1.4 billion euros come from national funds. Private contributions are added to this, wherever necessary, for a total sum surpassing 6 billion euros”.
The presentation was followed by a tour of the exhibition of the 16 Pilot Development Projects, which were drawn up and are being implemented by the agronomists from the fire-afflicted areas who participated in the programme.
Below are the titles of the 17 pilot development projects, which were planned and are being implemented by the agronomists from the fire-stricken regions. The analytical project planning and implementation proposals are available online here.
Unit I: Development Projects in the Prefecture of Arcadia:
1. Municipality of Falaisia: Cultivation of Aromatic and Medicinal Plants
2. Municipality of Falaisia: Helix Aspersa Heliciculture
3. Municipality of Falaisia: Cultivating Forage Crops to Improve Grazing Lands
4. Municipality of Falaisia: Livestock Farming Modernization
5. Municipality of Tegea: Taka Lake Reservoir Water Resources Management
6. Municipality of Megalopolis: Cultivating Willow Trees and Wild Artichokes to Produce and Burn Biomass in Existing District Heating Plants
Unit II: Development Projects in the Prefecture of Achaia:
7. Municipalities of Aegio and Diakopto: Grape Growers: Planting Local Grape Varieties and Applying New Cultivation Techniques on the Fire-Afflicted Slopes of Aegialeia
8. Municipality of Larissos: Organic Mosquito Control Programme
Unit III: Development Projects in the Prefecture of Euboea:
9. Municipality of Nileos: Establishing a Plant for the Protection and Development of the Fauna in a Region of N. Euboea
10. Municipality of Messapia: Greenhouse Lettuce Cultivation and Construction of a Greenhouse-Nursery in the Municipal District of Triada-Psachna, Municipality of Messapia
Unit IV: Development Projects in the Prefecture of Ileia:
11. Municipality of Oleni: Creation of a Raisin Museum, Planning the Raisin Roads, Developing the Wine Roads
Unit V: Development Projects in the Prefecture of Corinth:
12. Municipality of Vocha: Creating Environmental and Mountain Climbing Trails
Unit VI: Development Projects in the Prefecture of Laconia:
13. Municipality of Therapna: Management and Trade of Aromatic and Medicinal Plants
14. Municipality of Therapna: Helix Aspersa Heliciculture
15. Municipality of Oitylos: Technical Support and Training of Apiculturists n the Municipality of Oitylos, Mani
16. Municipality of Oitylos: Comprehensive Development of the Aromatic Medicinal Flora on the Rural Lands of Oitylos, Mani District