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Associations

Efforts to Re-Forest Greece in the Midst of Continuing Fires

ATHENS – Greece saw over 130,000 hectares of land burned by wildfires in 2021, nearly ten times the size of affected areas in the three years prior, and significantly larger than the average area burnt in the previous decade, according to a report by Statista.

Part of the ‘Plant a Tree in Greece’ project, members and supporters of The Hellenic Initiative (THI) and Greece-based non-profit We4All gathered at Ymittos Mount on July 12 to water a portion of 2,000 plants and trees planted earlier this year to combat the ravaging wildfires of last summer.

“It’s a really important part for people to realize that you don’t just plant a tree and it takes root by itself,” said THI Director of Community Development, Artemis Kohas. “There are people out there weekly watering and weeding the trees, making sure that the initial investment is seen through to the end and that’s what we were doing today.”

In the midst of ravaging fires threatening the mountainside suburbs northeast of Athens and the island of Lesbos, among other areas, volunteers continue their efforts to combat the aftermath. As of July 2022, wildfires in Greece have burned an area of 7,800 hectares according to a report by Statista.

THI’s Plant a Tree in Greece seeks to offer the opportunity for the global Greek diaspora and philhellenes to unite in support of Greece, specifically, to help reforest the homeland following fires that continue to damage areas across Greece.

“The same plants that we are taking care of today are the same plants that the ancient Greeks recognized and used as medicine in their daily life in sacred rituals and cuisine,” said Maria Christodoulou, a clinical herbalist. “[the ancient Greeks] had a special relationship with their environment, and it feels good to be out here taking care of trees that are going to make this a beautiful mountain again,” she said.

THI’s campaign for wildfire relief raised over $600,000 from 4,500 donors in 47 countries last year and began deploying these funds by planting 2,200 trees in Evia in the areas of Rovies, Limni, and Papades, with the aim to re-balance the natural environment and restore the livelihoods of bee, olive, and lemon farmers destroyed by the fires.

“Planting a tree in Greece not only furthers THI’s dual mission of crisis relief and economic development, but it provides a way for virtually any member of the Greek Diaspora globally to directly participate,” said THI Board Chairman Andrew N. Liveris.

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