The main needs of organic olive farms are to achieve innovation in terms of production and technology, to identify the distinctive qualities of the oil (e.g. as a traditional and typical product) and to find suitable methods of marketing and promotion.
In 1999, The Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari (IAM-B) established a network of experts in Mediterranean Organic Agriculture (MOAN) with the objective of furthering the development of organic agriculture in the Mediterranean countries through promotion, training, research and data collection about state-of-the-art of organic agriculture in the Mediterranean basin. Following the recommendations of the Venice Euro-Med Conference, a new MOAN organization is being planned. This will involve the active participation of each member country’s Ministry of Agriculture, in particular the unit in charge of organic agriculture, with the aim of promoting the organic sector in both EU and non-EU Mediterranean countries.
MOAN works to encourage political support for organic farming communities, that can stimulate new productive and promotional approaches of farms when applied to each area.
The Institute’s commitment to this process is evident in numerous projects regarding the organic olive-oil sector. These involve applying innovations and the development of an institutional vision. For this reason, several partnership projects have been created involving Italy and other Mediterranean countries, in order to compare the applicability of activities in the different areas.
In the Italian production sector, the projects INTERREG Italy-Albania – PAB I and II, Co.Bio. and the Master Thesis, have made it possible to evaluate the application of copper as an innovation in organic control of olive fly. Copper has a good antibacterial activity, and has recently been introduced with good results in terms of treatment efficiency. This antibacterial activity consists of disrupting the symbiosis between the insect and some bacteria which are found on the olive surface and which are vital to the survival of larvae.
Another example of innovation in the organic olive oil sector is the Interreg III Italy-Greece “Pro.Bio.Sis.” (Organic Production Systems). The project has made it possible to draw up “Guidelines for the Construction of a Bio-route”, contributing to the valorisation of organic oil produced in the “Serranova Torre Guaceto” nature reserve. The idea is that organic olive growers organize a partnership, and their final product is marketed under the brand “L’oro del Parco” (Park
Gold). This idea is not limited to olive oil production, but also encourages farmers to provide a basket of typical products (local tomatoes, cereals, etc..) and services (bio-tours, cycling, etc.). offered to visitors and consumers, so that everything is tied into the natural, cultural and historical value of the specific local area.
Another important example is the project Cent.Oli.Med. (Reference code: LIFE07 NAT/IT/000450) linked to the funds LIFE+ of European Community, and particularly to LIFE+Biodiversity.
The Cent.Oli.Med. project, with a partnership in Crete, has a duration of 3 years (2009 – 2012) and concerns 4 trust territories of Apulia Region (Italy):
1. Gargano National Park
2. Coastal Dunes Regional Park
3. Torre Guaceto Nature Reserve
4. Cesine Regional Nature Reserve.
The starting point is that of a regional necessity, because Apulia Region has the lowest ratio of wooded areas per inhabitant in Italy. For this reason it was necessary to consider centuries-old olive orchards as substitutes for forests and as reservoirs of plant and animal biodiversity.
In addition, Apulia Region passed a law to protect its centuries-old olive trees, considering them as natural landscape resources (Regional Law No. 14, 4 June 2007).
The main objective of Cent.Oli.Med. is the identification and preservation of the great natural value of centuries-old olive trees in the Mediterranean basin, through the study of animal and plant biodiversity and through morphogenetic characterization, linked to a geo-referencing census of monumental olive trees.
Another innovative goal is the drafting of guidelines shared across the entire Mediterranean. The aim of these guidelines is to enhance both the productive function and the conservation of biodiversity in olive orchards. So far more than 400 olive trees have been counted in Apulia.
In the Middle East (Syria and Lebanon) the IAM-B has implemented a project to improve the quality of olive oil which is funded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In Lebanon, there is the project “Social and economic support for the families of marginal producers in olive-growing regions in Lebanon – L’olio del Libano”.
The aims of the project are:
– to support olive growers to increase the quantity and improve the quality of their olives and olive oil;
– to reduce production costs;
– to limit the problems caused by olive oil mill by-products and to preserve the environment;
– to empower young people and women
– to strengthen the existing agricultural cooperatives.
This will be done by reinforcing and stimulating management, and planning activities of existing olive cooperatives and of groups of targeted olive growers in marginal olive-growing regions in Lebanon.
The Italian counterpart will ensure training, technical assistance, grants to promote technical innovation in olive and olive oil management and enhancement of products and by-products in the olive chain; and it will strengthen the extension services of the Ministry of Agriculture in order to achieve adequate organization of the different production processes of the supply chain.
The most important transversal innovation is the recognition of the multifunctional role of agriculture and of its leadership in the processes of eco-sustainable rural development aimed at protecting natural resources (biodiversity).
Promotion of organic olive oil farms is closely linked to the situation of the territory.
The most susceptible areas are multi-sector areas (archaeological, religious, historical, cultural and social). National and local policies aiming at environmental protection can contribute to the search for new methods of marketing and promotion.
Moreover, organic olive oil farms could enhance their value by exploiting new trends such as farm holidays, and by using new promotion strategies like the ones offered by the web.