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Athene - Reestablishing olive growth and agroforestry

The goddess Athene, known for her wisdom, won the contest with Poseidon, god of the Seas, to found a city in Attica, which she named after herself, because she was adjudged the first to have planted the olive tree there. Her gift to that land thus came to symbolise both peace and prosperity.

Athene is the name given to our project that seeks to promote agro forestry through the development of olive groves, almonds and pomegranates. Increasing the number of trees on agricultural land is considered one of the most important contributions to nature protection in rural development.

© 1998-2000, USA

The olive tree is inextricably linked to the very culture, myth and history of the Mediterranean. It is thought to have originated in Syria. Today, almost all the world's olive trees are still to be found along this basin, the cradle of civilisation. In ancient times, where economies were largely agrarian, they were associated with great prosperity. Moses even exempted from military service all those who cultivated them. The oil was widely used in the ancient world's diet, but was also used to fuel the sacred lamps in temples. The olive wreath, symbolising the crown of the goddess Athene, was also used to honour the Olympic champions in Athens.

:: The Olive: a health wonder!

Traditionally both the oil and the dried leaves of the olive tree were ingested to treat fever or used topically for wounds or infections. Modern science has confirmed that the leaves are astringent and antiseptic, containing oleuropein. Both leaves and bark have febrifugal qualities.

The oil is a laxative and a disperser of acids. Externally, it can relieve pruritis, the effects of stings or burns. It is a great lubricant for the skin, as well as for muscles, joints and kidneys. Traditionally it was also used against typhoid, scarlet fever and plague.

:: A diet wonder!

©, Italy

It is one of the best oils, to take raw or used in cooking, since it is one of the few that contain mono unsaturated fat, the only type of fat that is good for the body. It is indeed considered to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet.

:: The almond tree: a second wonder


The almond tree is also indigenous to the Mediterranean region. It is extremely hardy, not prone to disease, and yet produces one of the most magnificent fruits, which again, is considered to rank amongst the healthiest of all foodstuffs. The almond is also used to make sweets, including marzipan, and is sold at a premium. Almond trees are therefore a perfect choice in agro forestry.

:: What we are doing?

The last 7 years has seen a growing awareness of the wide benefits of olives in Maltese and Gozitan agriculture. This has also been partly due to our Project Athene campaign. From just a few thousand, the islands today have over 40,000 olive trees under cultivation. However we feel that this is still very far from the desired quantity that can have a huge positive impact on:

:: Our landscape: wooded areas in Malta are scarce. Trees on agricultural land can help to change this.
:: Local agriculture: The yield per hectare of land under olives is far higher than the current average of local agricultural land.
:: Countering some of the effects of climate change:
Agriculture worldwide is facing a huge crisis owing to climate change. In Malta increasing droughts and water salinity may wipe agriculture off the local map in just a few years. We believe that the best way to prepare for such an eventuality is to cultivate groves of olives, almonds, pomegranetes, and carob since these are very resistant to drought.
:: Providing a top quality health product: Olive and their oil are the best nature has to offer. The ancients knew this well. We are fast rediscovering this worldwide, placing olive products very much in demand. The Maltese and Gozitan soil and weather conditions make for a superlative oil, which can easily be marketed anywhere in the world.

While almonds contain the very important essential fatty acids and are considered highly nutritious, the pomegranate is fast becoming recognised as a wonder fruit, containing phyto nutrients that have been linked to boosting the immune system and the fights against diabetes, breast cancer, prostate cancer and heart disease.

:: Where are we going?

Project Athene plans to promote an industry with at least 500,000 trees in 10 years. For this we are developing schemes for individuals, companies, professional firms, Local Councils and project funders to participate in, to help us reach our goal. We are also setting up a broad Agroforestry Alliance to make this dream a reality.

The Gaia Foundation has 200 olive trees and 60 pomegranate trees under cultivation at Għajn Tuffieħa. We launched our first olive oil, named after Athene herself, in the Autumn of 2006. That same year we were the proud recipients of an award for the best olive oil submitted at olive festival in Burmarrad.

If you are interested in learning more about this exciting project, or if you would like to find out how you can help us to transform our local landscape, agriculture and environment, contact us by phone or email.

Athena Olive Oil

Gaia's award winning organic extra virgin olive oil. Launched in 2006.

Gaia's award winning organic extra virgin olive oil. Launched in 2006.


Gaia's olives ready to be pressed.

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Athene Links

- Olive Fruit Facts

- Olive Oil History

- Olive Oil Health Benefits

- Ta' Zeppi Olive Oil

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