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Western Washington UniversityCommunications and Marketing
DATE: February 25, 2008 2:27:42 AM PST
WWU Professor to Lead International Effort on Building Sustainable Economies
Contact: Nicholas Zaferatos, associate professor of Environmental Studies, Huxley College of the Environment, (360) 650-7660, or nicholas.zaferatos@wwu.edu.

BELLINGHAM - Western Washington University associate professor Nicholas Zaferatos has been named the principal investigator of the EuroMed Sustainable Communities project, an effort sponsored by the European Union to build sustainable economies across cultural and political boundaries.

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The island of Kefalonia, Greece, with its ancient ties to the Mediterranean olive-oil industry, will be one of the first test-case subjects in the EuroMed Sustainable Communities project led by Western Washington University's Nicholas Zaferatos.

"We're working to revitalize ancient economic trade ties throughout the Mediterranean," said Zaferatos, a faculty member at WWU's Huxley College of the Environment. "Rural areas that did vigorous trade for thousands of years have seen those trade links evaporate as walls - some literal, some figurative - have been built between Christian and Muslim communities. We want to tear those walls down and help get these communities focused on sustainable economies that benefit all partners."

The first case study in the project will use olive oil, an ancient commodity long traded throughout the region, as a test-case subject.

"Rural abandonment is a real problem throughout the Mediterranean region. Once-productive land - in this case, centuries-old orchards full of olive trees - are lying fallow and unused, a resource that is just waiting to be used as an economic driver. We need to re-form the links between the communities that collectively relied on olive oil, and formulate a business plan that can jump-start the rural economies once again."

Zaferatos said the goal is to create micro-economies based on the principles of sustainable development within the olive oil industry, following the fair trade business approach that has been adapted to the global coffee-growing industry.

"The idea is that a higher value should be attainable through direct marketing in the global marketplace, especially when socially conscious consumers are assured that the high quality oil is produced though a cooperation of rural farmers and the proceeds directly support the continuation of their rural communities," he said. "Right now, a small number of huge companies monopolize the olive-oil industry."

EuroMed stakeholders will meet for an initial conference at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio conference center in Lake Como, Italy, in March; this will be followed by meetings in Tunisia in early May and Kefalonia, Greece, in late May. Zaferatos said the meetings are aimed at resulting in a viable and sustainable business proposal that can be implemented to start development. The stakeholder group includes non-government organizations and local farming communities from Tunisia, Greece, Italy, Palestine and Jordan. Among the attendees providing technical expertise to the stakeholder group will be fellow WWU faculty members Gigi Berardi (Environmental Studies) and James Loucky (Anthropology), as well as researchers from the United Nations University in Amman, Jordan, Hellenic American University in Athens, and the Technical Educational Institute of Patras, Greece.

For more information about the EuroMed project, call Nicholas Zaferatos at (360) 650-7660, or e-mail nicholas.zaferatos@wwu.edu.

WWU's Huxley College of the Environment is one of the oldest environmental colleges in the nation and a recognized national leader in producing the next generation of environmental stewards. The College's academic programs reflect a broad view of the physical, biological, social and cultural world. This innovative and interdisciplinary approach makes Huxley unique. The College has earned international recognition for the quality of its programs.

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