SEED SCHOOL in ATTIKI ATHENS
2-3 APRIL 2016
In cooperation with the Professional Agricultural School of SYNGROU - EPAS (in Maroussi, Athens), a school that belongs to the National Agricultural Institute ELGO Dimitra, AEGILOPS co-organized an educational two-day program on agricultural biodiversity and the conservation of traditional varieties in Athens, on 2 and 3 April 2016. The courses were held in the facilities of the Professional School EPAS.
The school was attended with free participation by a limited number of trainees (about 55), which consisted mainly of AEGILOPS members in Athens, students of EPAS, members of Athens’ seed saving network, suburban garden groups, organic growers of the region around Athens, agronomists and educators.
The trainees had the opportunity to evaluate knowledge and experience on issues related to the importance and use of agricultural biodiversity theoretically and practically (by participating in interactive workshops), to share their own experiences and finally to exchange seeds.
Significant help in organizing and editing the school was the focal point of AEGILOPS in Athens (VOTANOKIPOS, Biological nurseries in Markopoulo, Attiki) and KATALACHOU (a cooperativee grocery) which undertook the preparation of lunch snacks.
Specifically: On the first day of school Dr. Kostas Koutis (agronomist, researcher) highlighted the importance of traditional crops and varieties in modern agriculture and the general wealth of our country’s agricultural biodiversity. Then Dr. Fotis Bletsos (agronomist, vol. Researcher ELGO Dimitra) made detailed reference to the preservation of traditional vegetable varieties and answered many questions related to pollination, seed production and the nutritional value of tomato, cucumber, eggplant, and other vegetables. After the break, Iosif Papanastasiou (agronomist MSc), director of Professional School of Syngrou made a short presentation of the school’s activities and then conducted a guided tour of at its premises. After a beautiful short walk, instructors and trainees visited students in the field where a workshop was held by Fotis Bletsos and Maria Ioannidou (VOTANOKIPOS) concerning the organic preparation of vegetable seedbeds and another by EPAS Sygrou concerning the propagation of perennial flowers and herbs. This was followed by a tour of the impressive garden of Cactus friends operating within the EPAS.
In the evening unit, a video was shown about a seed collection expedition to Ithaca island, prepared by the AEGILOPS centre in the Ionian Islands. Then Dr. Kostas Koutis analyzed the function of formal and informal seed systems and the importance of community seed banks. He also made special reference to the need for improving institutional seed exchange and enriching community seed databases with information from evaluation
fields and traditional knowledge. There followed a presentation from seedsaving networks on activities in the Attica region and from other social groups or individuals concerned with the preservation of traditional varieties. Also emphasized was the role of citizens in biodiversity conservation under the current conditions of globalization, and also the need for participation contributing to defending farmers’ rights and promoting quality food production.
During the second day, Dr. Christina Vakali talked about the relationship between biodiversity and organic agriculture and stressed the importance of soil fertility as a factor of strategic importance for the sustainable management in agriculture. Biological pest management and sustainable seed management was mentioned also by Dr. Kostas Koutis as well as seed maintenance and storage issues with emphasis on humidity factors on cereals, legumes etc. Dr. Katerina Gkoltsiou (agronomist – landscaper) described the combined approach of landscaping and biodiversity, and reported on concrete examples of landscape management with emphasis on indigenous species, varieties and sustainability.
An on farm tour followed attempting to identify biodiversity elements related to gardening, landscaping and to agro-ecosystems such as vine cultivation, fruit and olive trees where organic management was simulated. (Kostas Koutis Aik. Gkoltsiou, Chr. Vakali). The school finished with a final evaluation of the program followed by an exchange of seeds among participants.