ATHENS – This summer, Northern Evia experienced one of the worst natural disasters Greece has ever seen. Devastating wildfires left behind 508,000 acres of burnt land and destroyed homes, schools, roads, factories, and much of the region’s wealth of forest and wildlife.
Fortunately, no lives were lost there, but the effects of the fires have been felt widely and deeply by local communities whose livelihoods are inextricably linked to the land. In response, on August 12, 2021, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) announced a €15 million grant aiming to help alleviate the severe aftereffects of the disaster and to support those most affected by the fires.
“Our first reaction to this unparalleled natural disaster was deep sadness,” said SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos. “Sadness for the loss of natural habitat, and for the tragic consequences felt by local communities. Our second was to ask how we could convert our feelings into action to find, as quickly as possible, creative and effective ways to support the people of Northern Evia. Our first efforts are already underway to address some of the issues local communities face and, most importantly, to give them reason to hope that a better tomorrow is possible. We will continue to move forward together with determination and purpose.”
SNF’s approach to grantmaking is to try to understand the needs of local communities and learn from them, to collaborate with the relevant stakeholders, and to implement programs that are focused always on assisting quickly those on the ground that need our help the most. Between early September and early October, we conducted three visits to the areas of Northern Evia that suffered the most damage, in collaboration with the nonprofit New Agriculture New Generation. We talked with residents and local stakeholders, we saw how the communities in the area have been affected, and we identified the problems facing the region’s ecosystem-reliant economy. We then explored different ways in which we could begin to deliver support immediately, in order to most effectively aid recovery.
The implementation phase of the initiative has launched, focusing on providing support to four groups of affected residents in the region:
- Training for the recovery of lost bee colonies.
- Creation of a pilot beekeeping park in the private Noel-Baker forest.
- Purchase of professional equipment.
2) Resin Producers / Forestry Workers
- Replacement of technical and safety equipment.
3) Stock Farmers
- Training on animal welfare, breeding, and feeding.
4) Local Communities
- Support for household food production.
As implementation of the initiative begins, we continue to work with other concerned organizations to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the problems at play and thereby to coordinate a more effective response. We are also looking into further steps that can help avert the devastating effects of fires in the long term.
All of us at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) will continue to stand with the residents of northern Evia, supporting them as best we can in their time of difficulty and contributing, in collaboration with local stakeholders, to the regeneration of the region as soon as possible.