Two years ago, we gathered for the first time in an open assembly a few dozen citizens, inhabitants of Syros, to discuss the problems of our island. Through this first meeting, the idea sprang up that, in order not to destroy the island from an endless development that has no limits, a way of mild growth combined with alternative tourism should be found. That is, tourism, but of quality, with respect to island’s way of life, its landscape and history.
From then on, at regular intervals, we are gathering more and more in open assemblies at the University amphitheater and we are discussing our vision of how to revive the Apano Meria of Syros, its traditional cultivations, how to make acquaintance with the geological and the archaeological treasures of the island and how we will bring about the declaration of the Geopark of Syros. For all these reasons, we created a Cooperative Community Enterprise (CCE), with aims supporting the above goals.
The CCE “Apano Meria Syrou” aims to create jobs for the unemployed and young people of the island, in the spirit of protecting and preserving a unique island area and its exploitation in terms of sustainability. This will be done through the stimulation of the agricultural production of Apano Mera (agriculture, beekeeping, viticulture, livestock farming) and the cultivation of the idea of alternative and qualitative tourism in the above region (educational, natural, hiking, archaeological, geological etc) that will last all year round.
For this reason, we seek to declare Syros as a world geopark—monument of UNESCO. And this idea of the creation of the Geopark should be accepted and embraced by all Syros society. We have been working on it for two years on many levels.
On our own initiative and in cooperation with the Kapodistrian University of Athens, the City of Syros has submitted a proposal for a program aiming at the restoration of the hiking paths leading to sites of geological interest, the creation of a Geological Museum and other infrastructures supporting the Geopark.
All of us who have embraced the Vision of the Geopark are also working to achieve collaboration with the South Aegean Prefecture, the Decentralized Administration and all the major players on the island.
We already cooperate at various levels with the Aegean University, the Cyclades Forestry Directorate, the Cyclades Development and Chamber of Commerce, the Associations of Middle School Teachers, the Archaeological Service, the WWF, Mom and other organizations that already have achieved the declaration of the marine park of Gyaros (which is directly linked to the island of Syros), the Hellenic Society for the Environment and Culture, the Friends of Nature, as well as dozens of Universities [departments] of Geology from around the world (professors and students) who visit the island at regular intervals to study their subject matter on the field. And finally, to mention the crowd of people who participate in open meetings and who are informed by the [CCE] secretariat’s long list of issues and who have embraced the project.
Our Present Objectives-Actions
- Andreas Gialoglou as a geologist but also a city councilor has undertaken the communication with Nikos Zouros, director of the geopark of Lesvos and president of the global network of Geoparks (Lesvos has already been recognized as a UNESCO World Geopark) and with Professor Babis Fassoulas, Director of Geopark Psiloritis and coordinator of the Greek Geoparks, who will advise us in our footsteps. Also, NTUA Professor, Joseph Stephanou, is in contact with Mrs. Eugenia Geroussi, National Coordinator for the World Heritage Sites of Greece at UNESCO on Geopark.
- The Secretariat [board] of the project, made up of many volunteers, has undertaken the task and the work (in agreement with all stakeholders: Ministry of Environment, City of Syros, South Aegean Prefecture, Decentralized Administration, University of the Aegean, about 60 universities from all over the world who visit Syros, CCE Apano Meria and other institutions) to prepare the folder to be submitted to UNESCO containing:
- All the reasons that make the Apano Meria (and Syros as a whole) important enough to join the UNESCO World Geopark Network.
- All the necessary infrastructure to be implemented in the areas of geological and natural monuments on the island, the demarcation of Geopark’s sites of interest, the visited cultural and archaeological monuments and museums, elements of ecological interest (Natura 2000 protected areas, flora, fauna, habitats, etc.), the infrastructure and activities of theme tourism and environmental education, local tradition and local products of Syros, cultural events, public information dissemination, the administration and projection of the Geopark, so that the Geopark of Syros can be included and declared an important monument of nature by UNESCO.
In the last month, several people associated with our project attended the “Interpreting Guide” seminar organized by (sic) Developmental and soon they will be certified as tour guides and will be able to work in the direction of educational tours.
Ach. Dimitropoulos suggested that some courses be specially provided for young guides on archaeological, environmental, geological, etc. topics in Syros so that the guides, in addition to the methodology they acquired at the seminar, would have sufficient knowledge of the themes of the tour.
And because there is interesting from the schools of all levels, we are discussing the coordination and organization of educational tours that the CCE can co-ordinate.
The experienced hiker Dim. Chamezopoulos has undertaken the coordination of the group that will deal with the paths. The team includes persons from the City, the Perfecture, the Community, the Hiking Team, etc.
Center for Environmental Education
We are preparing a comprehensive proposal for the creation of an Environmental Education Center in the Kini Aquarium, which is being developed by a team of scientists.
Also, the CCE “Apano Meria”, in collaboration with KEK Gennimatas Rhodes, the South Aegean Prefecture, the support of the Directorate of the Ministry of Rural Development, the Development Company of the Cyclades, and the support of the Cyclades Chamber of Commerce, is proceeding to the organization of: SEMINARS FOR THE FARMERS OF APANO MERIA
(ARID) BIOLOGICAL CULTURE
BIOLOGICAL VINEYARDS –
Correct Management of Livestock, Drilling and Moving Beekeeping, topics that create issues and solutions–Also the experimental construction of WARKA WATER collection device in collaboration with the University of the Aegean and how we draw water from the night moisture for watering in “arid farming”.
So far, the list of speakers has been formed as follows:
- Anna Darzenda (founder of the successful “Kastri” Cooperative)
Subject: Experience from “Kastri”
- Staff of the Directorate of Agricultural Economy of the Cyclades Region of the Region of Aegean
Subject: Agricultural Financing and Cooperatives
- Orestis Davias (Biologist)
Subject: Organic beekeeping, herb cultivation
- Panagiotis Vouros (Environmentalist)
Subject: Good practices for the exploitation of protected areas with a view to local sustainable development
- Costas Katagas
Subject: Herbs of Apano Meria
- Kostas Vassilakis (Biologist)
Subject: Agrotourism, Multifunctional Farms, An Approach
- Agricultural Rural Development Director
Subject: Viticulture, Anhydrous (organic farming)
- From a Hydrologist
Subject: The huge problem of uncontrolled drilling
- Alexandros Mavis (Environmentalist)
Subject: Uncontrolled grazing and upcoming desertification
* The list of speakers as well as the subjects are under development and are being discussed with the speakers themselves and with the farmers and beekeepers so that the seminars meet the needs of the participants.
Τranslated by Constantine Hatziadoniu