The morphology of the Mediterranean countries, the temperate climate and the generous terrain give birth in each state to agricultural produce of increasing prestige. Among these, oils are those most greatly appreciated. And these are the products which are put under the microscope in order to protect their quality and the different cultivations.
The Network came into being in Imperia on the 18th of November 2011 during the first edition of the Mediterranean Diet Forum. It is a network of the olive oil towns of the Mediterranean.
Italy, Albania, Croatia, Greece, Israel, Morocco, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey are the 12 founder members. Lebanon was granted membership during the 2nd edition of the Forum, on 16th of November 2012.
The connection between the Network and the Forum on the Mediterranean Diet is not accidental: in fact, among the aims of the Forum we find that of contributing to strengthen the Mediterranean identity through the knowledge and enhancement of olive-cultivating areas and the products of the olive, by helping these areas to develop economic and social strategies.
The network was constituted in Imperia, in Liguria, which has always been considered one of the capital cities of traditions linked to extra-virgin olive oil. In 1983 the first International Convention entitled “The Culture and History of the Mediterranean Diet” was organized in Imperia, and in the same year, the ONAOO came into being, the world-wide Organization of Olive Oil Tasters. So only Imperia, the town of olive oil and olive groves, of the culture based on cuisine, could be the birthplace of the Network of Olive Oil Towns of the Mediterranean.
The following are the Member States of the Network and their representatives:
1 ALBANIA, Albanian Agricoltural Ministry
2 CROATIA, Croatian Olive Oil Towns Association
3 GREECE, “Routes of the Olive tree” Cultural Foundation
4 ISRAEL, The Israeli Olive Oil division
5 ITALY, Italian Olive oil Towns Association
6 LEBANON, Ministry of Agriculture
7 MOROCCO, Agro-pôle Olivier
8 MONTENEGRO, Municipality of Tivat
9 PORTUGAL, ADEMO
10 SLOVENIA, Slovenian olive growers association (DOSI)
11 SPAIN, AEMO, Spanish Olive Oil Towns Association
12 TUNISIA, IRESA, National Institute for Agricoltural Research and Tunisian Olive Oil Institute
13 TURKEY, Chamber of agriculture of Didim
Its main aim is to take action to preserve and optimize the history of olive cultivation and the production of olive oil, so that its origin and the typical qualities of local production are maintained.
Another of the Network’s aims is to promote the culture and scientific aspects of olive cultivation, in addition to those linked to human intervention, and to develop tourism as an offshoot of the olive cultivating civilization of the Mediterranean.
One of our activities will be the constitution in their respective countries of origin, if it does not already exist, of National Associations of Oil Towns, the creation of centres of documentation, eco-museums and events linked to the world of olive cultivation and Mediterranean cuisine; the promotion of seminars and research on the quality of oil in relation to health aspects, the safeguarding and finding again the lost flavours and scents of the culinary traditions of the Mediterranean diet and the organization of Mediterranean festivals with the olive as the central feature and which offer the public the chance to discover the heredity of olive cultivation and the traditions of the oil-producing towns, thus transforming simple itineraries into real attractions for tourists.
The aim of this network, as soon as the Protocol of Intention has been signed, is not to be just a piece of paper, but to provide concrete help so that the common area of knowledge, traditions, experiences may be shared, and to arouse greater international interest, also in terms of the ability to attract increased financial aid from the European Commission for themes such as the protection and promotion of quality olive oils and rural development.
So an instrument which aims to transmit actively a repertoire of culture, history and centuries-old tradition which brings together the whole Mediterranean area, starting from the inhabitants of the local communities which are the main producers.
And there is already a candidacy: the elevation to Patrimony of Humanity of the Mediterranean areas which are dedicated to olive cultivation. This, says the chairman of Re.C.O.Med, Enrico Lupi, will go towards the “protection not only of the countryside in a geographic sense, but above all as culture, history and centuries-old tradition which can be found all round the Mediterranean.”