Healing fruit of the Mediterranean from the Tree of Life

Olive trees can live for thousands of years. They are a good example of sustainability. Turkey and Portugal are producers of olives and olive oil. "What are the environmental characteristics favorable to olive growth? Which natural factors affect their production? Is the increase in olive oil production incompatible with environmental sustainability?”. The United Nations define sustainable development as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. According to UNESCO, education is a prerequisite for achieving sustainable development and an essential tool for informed decision-making and democracy. Approaching one of the objectives for sustainable development - ensuring that society has relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature by 2030 - we have surveyed the situation of olive growth in Portugal and Turkey.

Humans used to consume what they collected from nature. Since industrialization nature has been damaged, which threatens the sustainability and future of the planet. We should provide sustainability, through consumption of local products, environmentally friendly agriculture and production.

Olive tree in the north of Portugal

Olive, symbol of wealth, fame and peace, is also found in four holy books. The olive tree is referred to as the tree of life, because of the white pigeon that returned to Noah’s ark after the flood had an olive branch in its mouth.

Naturlink website refers that the existence of olive trees is parallel in the history, tradition and culture of the Mediterranean people. This tree is tolerant to any type of soil; however, the lack of water can become a limiting factor.

Olive oil, prized since antiquity for its gastronomic value as well as preventive and therapeutic properties, is used, in Portugal, as a seasoning and in the confection of food [1].

Today, 96% of the world’s olive-growing area is concentrated in the Mediterranean Basin. According to Turkey Olive Research Institute of officials, Turkey has about 100 million olive trees, being among the most important olive producing countries in the world. An average of 1,100,000 tons of olives are produced every year – about 75% of the production is used as olive oil and 25% is used as fruit [2].

Official data state that, in Portugal, olive is mainly intended to produce of olive oil (about 96%) and about 4% is used to produce table olives [3]. Another official data presented that, in the last decades, Portugal almost doubled the olive oil prodution, reaching, for instance, 91,647 ton in 2013. This is mainly due to the planting of thousands of hectares of intensive and highly productive super-intensive olive groves in Alentejo, an investment that was possible because of, among other factors, the completion of the Alqueva dam and the availability of water for irrigation. Moreover, there was an increase in consumption and exportation, thanks to the promotion of the excellence of our olive oil, the dissemination of its characteristics and the recognition of its nutritional qualities [4].

Turkish students

Klizomenai, the oldest olive oil production site known in Anatolia, located in Urla.

As Turkish students, before starting the project, we visited Klizomenai, the oldest olive oil production site known in Anatolia, located in Urla, a small settlement on the Mediterranean coast. We learned the history of the olive tree and olive oil in their place of origin. Urla is a settlement full of olive trees, where many local producers are available. We visited the farm of Güler Köstem, one of the local producers of organic farming, and learned the difficulties he faced. Ms. Kostem said, “If you want a high yield in olive production, trees need to be planted in places where the groves grow naturally in the region” In addition, she mentinoned that there are some fungus in olive trees and the importance of ecology in the removal of these diseases by natural means. Then, we visited the olive oil museum. We had the opportunity to see how the olive oil was processed in parallel with the history, trade and development of the industry. We have seen how to appreciate a pure olive oil in olive oil tasting.  Ms Köstem “Unfortunately big companies make some improper olive oil production so that it becomes cheaper but not real in olive oil market. One of the most important problems we have as local producers is unconscious consumers that prefer to buy cheap products instead of products with quality.”

The Portuguese students researched in the media about the production of olives in 2017 and interviewed an olive grower [5].

In October, olive growers were concerned about olive oil production in Portugal due to the drought that affected about 80% of the territory. Luís Crisóstomo (olive grower, Alentejo) said – “Olive trees are very heavy, they have lots of olives. But in a drought situation, what will happen is that the olive will fall to the ground, even without reaching the state of maturation, and ends up being a lost olive” [6]. Despite this, 2017 campaign was extraordinary (production of over 120,000 tons), justified by the elevated temperatures recorded which have prevented plagues and the introduction of new olive groves. In a radio reporting about the increase of intensive and super intensive olive groves in Alentejo, Mário Carvalho (professor at Évora University) considers this practice environmentally unfriendly, because it affects biodiversity due to the use of pesticides [7].

Because of the information we have obtained as Turkish students, we have learned that olive, which has an important role in our culture and especially in the region we live in, needs to be consumed more and more consciously among young people. We prepared a video about the necessity of the healthy consumption of olives [8].

Portuguese students reflected about the importance of supporting traditional systems and in what way agriculture can modernize while maintaining sustainability. Based on a study [9], they conclude that “good management and economic rationality, combined with financial and technical capacity, could promote less use of fertilizers and plant protection products, more efficient use of water and the establishment of partnerships for innovation in intensive systems” and  that, because “research and innovation in traditional systems face some problems, including the advanced age and low level of schooling of olive growers and reduced financial capacity”, a public investment is necessary to protect a variety of DOP olive oil (Denomination of Protected Origin), to keep multifunctionality and ecosystem services and to promote employability and wealth in low population density and great fragility regions, allowing the agricultural exploitation of these areas.



[1] http://www.alimentacaosaudavel.dgs.pt/en/food-and-health/mediterranean-diet-what-is-it/

[2] https://www.tarim.gov.tr/Belgeler/SagMenuVeriler/Tarimsal_Veriler.pdf

[3] http://www.isa.utl.pt/files/pub/destaques/diagnosticos/Azeite__Diagnostico_Sectorial.pdf


[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YDtehWCSYE


[7] https://www.tsf.pt/programa/reportagem-tsf/emissao/-a-fabrica-da-azeitona-9105241.html

[8] https://youtu.be/2R4At41NmF8

[9] https://www.animar-dl.pt/documentos/370/Publicacoes-Animar/798/O-Olival-em-Portugal.pdf


Alunos envolvidos no projeto: TAKEV SCHOOLS (Izmir/Turkey) Filiz Güllü; Zeynep Çavuşoğlu; Deniz Ertan; Elif Deniz Akpınar; Aylin Erdin; Seher Balay; Kadir Göktan Acaroğlu; Miray Canbay; Destina Kaygın; Deniz Mumcu; Yasmin Can; Aleyna Akbaba; Bilge Tokkuzun; Seymen Gencer; Ege Özcan; İdil İzgi Akyurt; Berfin Dev; Özgür Özkan; Deniz Alp Özsan; Bilgesu Baykan; Can Konyalı. ESCOLA SECUNDÁRIA FILIPA DE VILHENA (Porto/Portugal) Diogo Lage; Alexandre Magalhães; Nina Pontes; Filipe Moutinho; Catarina Macedo; Catarina Marques; Nicole Melo; João Mendes e Rodrigo Correia.

Escola: Escola Secundária Filipa de Vilhena

Data: 08.04.2018

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