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Stories of Change

Saving a village by adopting its olive trees

One of the farmers taking care of the olive tree. Courtesy: Apadrinaunolivo.org

There are few things worse than being neglected into oblivion. The olive trees of Oliete, a village in Teruel, Spain, were disappearing for this very reason until four years ago. Located in one of the most deserted areas of Europe and, due to rural exodus, Oliete's 100,000 olive trees seemed doomed to dry out and die until hundreds of "godparents" came to their rescue.

In 2014, Alberto Alfonso y Sira Plana created Apadrina un Olivo (Adopt an Olive Tree), a nonprofit hoping to create jobs in the village, save its 100-year-old ecosystem and bring life back to a dying region. They offered the world the possibility to adopt one for 50 euros a year. In return, the donors would receive two litres of oil from each harvest. They created a user-friendly website, which combined with an excellent social media strategy and occasional media appearances, opened Oliete to the world. They obtained 500 donations that first year, and ended 2017 with 2,450 donations, many from France and Germany.

Since its foundation, the nonprofit has saved more than 7,000 olive trees and created 14 jobs, two of which brought families from other Spanish regions to town, adding eight new children to the village.