Why a thousand year old olive tree has managed to save the public school of a town in Teruel | New Times in EL PAÍS

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A small miracle of 50 euros saved the life of JoaTe, an olive tree with more than a thousand years of Oliete (Teruel) that depopulation was consuming. What the droughts and frosts had not achieved during the passage of the centuries, was achieved by the march of the population and, therefore, the abandonment of the workforce of the farmers. In just under 40 years, 70% of the residents of the town had left in search of a better life and the 300 who still resided in 2014 could not take care of the more than 100,000 trees that live in their olive groves, including the millenary JoaTe. When everything seemed lost, a group of young people created Sponsor an Olive Tree, an association to save these copies in the town through the sponsorship of each olive tree for 50 euros per year, the use of new technologies and social networks. In less than six years, more than 8,200 olive trees have been recovered and the godfathers already add more than 5,000 from around the world. Gradually life has flourished again in the town, the oil mill has reopened and new families have arrived with children.

An example is the family of Carlos Blanco, originally from Barcelona and who, for economic reasons, decided to move to Oliete with his wife and three children. “We had a house there because we liked the town and, when things started to go wrong in my company, I decided to go to work in the new mill. It was as if you suddenly got together with a family of 300 people. And this family he worried that we were not missing anything, “he explains. His life change was not only a breath of fresh air and new experiences for his family, it was also salvation for Oliete’s school. The low number of children threatened the closure of the only public school, but the arrival of their children Claudia, six, César, one, and Ulysses, newborn, I avoid it. “Now there are eight children in the town and for this year we expect the birth of two more,” lists Rogelio Villanueva, the mayor. “Sponsor an Olive Tree has added a little to make this town a better place.” Villanueva mentions Alberto Alfonso Pordomingo, president and co-founder of the association, as someone key to make it work: “Every year the godparents come and leave some money: in stores, in the two rural houses that are …”, he explains .

Aerial view of Oliete, in Teruel. Sponsor an olive tree

The association has a photographic archive of each copy so that the godparents choose which olive tree they want to recover and produce olives again. “Each tree has a QR code that we update with the information of its state so that the owner knows its evolution through the application. In addition, two bottles of oil are delivered a year and you are invited to visit the town so that see his olive tree, “says Alfonso. After saving the first thousands of trees, Sponsor an Olive Tree opened an oil mill with the aim of making production more sustainable and oil quality optimal. In addition to having created 14 new jobs, they offer free training to farmers, who are paid a little more than the average for olives.

Correos Market, a tool against depopulation

Why a thousand year old olive tree has managed to save the public school of a town in Teruel
Sponsor an Olive Tree

Sponsor an Olive Tree is also one of the producers of Correos Market, an initiative that seeks to support rural entrepreneurs. In this sustainable e-commerce platform, Correos offers small local producers to market and publicize their products in an easier and safer way throughout Spain. The businesses that are already part of this initiative are more than 230 and, in total, in the market place Post Office offers more than 1,700 products ranging from oil to cosmetics. All of them elaborated with a procedure that guarantees the sustainability of the environment. One of the pillars of the platform on-line It is the strong distribution network, since the public parcel company has 2,393 offices scattered throughout the country, which facilitates connection and reduces order times. Shipments are made throughout Spain without costs, which is a plus for both customers and small local producers.

A help to overcome the duel

Prince Happy, the olive tree sponsored by Carmen Revillo.
Prince Happy, the olive tree sponsored by Carmen Revillo. Carmen Revillo

Olive trees have not only been a small economic lever to resist depopulation; They have also served some sponsors to fill the void left by the absence of a loved one. For Carmen Revillo, it was the rebirth of the Happy Prince outbreaks, the tree she gave her son Guille in 2015 months before she died, which helped her move forward: “A few months after Guille died, I found a mail of the association in its tablet who invited the godparents to visit the town to see our tree. I went with my husband … I still get excited when I remember him. In our family we are four and the olive tree had three trunks that grew from the ground and a quarter that had to be cut to recover the tree. Everyone was united, “he explains. “It was as if nature knew what had happened to us and said: ‘Here is this olive tree alive, growing and giving olives with a less trunk.’ As if, despite that, he announced that life goes on. Happy Prince He taught me a lesson. Life goes on and we are still four “, says Revillo, now godmother herself and who has also supported the construction of the mill.

In a short time, the project crossed the borders of Spain and got sponsors and godmothers of up to 17 countries: France, USA, Singapore, Afghanistan, Romania, Chile, Australia or Lebanon are some of the territories where several of the people who come from They are helping Oliete re-produce oil.

Uncle Miguel who, with 100 years, is Oliete's oldest neighbor.
Uncle Miguel who, with 100 years, is Oliete’s oldest neighbor. Sponsor an olive tree

From the first moment, the people turned to the initiative. Among the 300 inhabitants, Uncle Miguel, 100 years old, rose as the soul of it, both for his advice of the field and for the clarity of his way of seeing nature. “We are obliged to do so. To those in the city who do not know the olive tree, brothers, look what I say: you have the responsibility to give them all the help they need,” he says eloquently in a video of the association, while holding in a rod. “You eat oil or the daily food … Don’t you miss it when you don’t have it? Well look, help the farmer who is keeping the olive tree.”

Extend the idea to other peoples

Pordomingo exposes one of the engines of the project: “We wanted to connect the people of the urban world with the rural world.” In his own words, the project is leveraged in the circular economy to meet the four S: “We are sustainable because we practice organic farming; we are social because we include groups with different capacities; solidarity, because we encourage sponsorship, and we are healthy because we work on a quality and healthy product “.

“We would also like to extend the model to other abandoned areas in the rural world. Each town or area has a quality product or service that gives them value and we want to recover and strengthen it,” he explains. Alfonso. The association has already started working with producers from Alacón, also in Teruel, a town known for the quality of its horticultural products. The co-founder of Apadrina an Olivo explains: “We are making canned vegetables with Alacon vegetables and our oil. We want to restart the land to produce canned artichokes, leeks, peppers … Promote a product that prevents it from leaving people, close the school, keep the land, keep the rural environment alive. “

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