Smart Solutions

Adopt an Olive Tree

Users (from anywhere in the world) can adopt an olive tree in the village via the online platform, with the money raised being used at local level to recover abandoned olive groves.

Implemented inOliete

Country : Spain

What’s the solution?

This solution takes advantage of ICT and the emotional connection that many people still feel with rural areas – even if they are not living there themselves. People are able to remotely adopt an olive tree and thus create a link with the rural area (maybe of their parents or grandparents), whilst contributing financially to the sustainable development/maintenance of the local rural community.

The online platform takes advantage of modern ICT to enable an emotional and financial connection to be made between the rural area and these ‘adoptive parents’ wherever they may be located in the world.

The solution also uses features including a QR Code on each olive tree, sensors in the olive grove and geolocation, a digital field notebook, the use of drones and mobiles for video calls and image capture from the olive grove and a new mobile phone app, so that adoptive parents can follow the evolution of their tree.

The solution is developed by an innovative social entrepreneurship project that works from ICT to generate local employment for people excluded from the labour market and with intellectual disabilities, whilst promoting sustainable rural development. The money raised supports local work in the rural community to recover abandoned centennial olive grove and their biodiversity in a sustainable way, using the principles of land stewardship.

The solution generates a triple positive balance, promoting economically, environmentally and socially sustainable rural development. Adoptive parents are able to live the experience of becoming a true hero of local rural change!

What makes it smart?

The solution is smart because it uses the potential provided by modern technologies to give new life to depopulated areas, by restoring value to abandoned endogenous resources and providing local employment opportunities in an intelligent way. It uses social entrepreneurship and applies innovation, technology, ICT and digital tools in ways that are realistic and ‘within the reach’ of even small rural communities.

Specifically, the solution demonstrates the following forms of innovation:

• Digital/technological innovation – using connected features including: a QR Code on each olive tree; sensors in the olive grove and geolocation, a digital field notebook, the use of drones and mobiles for video calls and image capture from the olive grove; the database and website; and a new App Mi Olivo (IOS and Google Play) all allowing users to adopt and follow the evolution of their olive tree. The system is also now linked to the installation of sensors and smart farming technologies.

• Social innovation – involving the local society in a land-stewardship model to together make possible a project with high social impact and triple bottom line. It creates sheltered work placements for local people with learning and other disabilities. It also builds new social and emotional connections between rural areas and people living elsewhere in the world.

• Business innovation – The most important business innovation of is to give life back to those thousand-year-old olive trees that were planted by our ancestors more than 1,000 years ago and that thanks to smart digital tools today are once again a source of wealth, generating employment, rural development and supporting the local process of ecological transition to raise awareness about the importance of protecting and conserving our biodiversity and these ancient olive trees as natural heritage of humanity.

How is the solution implemented?

  • Signing of stewardship land agreements with the owners of the olive groves;
  • Development of the database;
  • Sponsorship process and experiences;
  • Farmer app and QR code in the olive grove, olive grove and field digitisation process;
  • Communication and digital marketing of the project.

In what local context has it been applied?

Oliete, is a small rural village in north-eastern Spain. The name of the town derives from Olivetum, olive grove in Latin.

The local context was to find ourselves with more than 100,000 abandoned centenary olive trees and a rural municipality totally condemned to die, without objectives or hopes to continue forward. The village had an increasingly old and ageing population and the few young people had lost the will to fight for the future of the village.

The smart solution has been to achieve, thanks to ICT and digital tools, that people from all over the planet can sponsor an olive tree and thus help this social, solidarity, sustainable and healthy project to restore hope and direction to the municipality.

Who was behind the implementation?

The initiative started from the dedication of two individuals (Adrián and Pablo), co-founders of and recently graduated computer engineers.

They and their team are in charge of IT development and project design and the method to apply this model and be the engine of change.ín

What was the local journey?

• The team first of all explained the idea to the people, the local authorities and the farmers and owners of the olive trees. Later we began to sign the custody agreements for the olive groves.

• We hired the first person in the project who started to recover the olive trees and to receive people in the town and to feed the demands of the IT, marketing and communication team.

• We commissioned: the website and sponsorship process; the development of the Mi Olivo app; the farmer app and image capture process

• We immediately received the first sponsorships thanks to the TVE (Spanish National TV) report that included us as a closing news on the world environment day news and thanks to other media that spoke about us such as National Geographic, La Vanguardia, El País, etc.

• Thanks to the project we have started a local supported workplace initiative providing employment opportunities for local people with learning and other disabilities.

• The project has also enabled the installation of sensors and smart farming equipment in the olive groves – another smart solution!

What have been the main outputs & results?

  • The press titled it the miracle of Oliete!
  • Already after the first year we closed with 400 sponsors. We have now grown to have more than 5000 ‘adoptive parents’ of olive trees around Oliete- from 26 countries around the world.
  • Many acres of olive grove have been restored and their olives harvested. Three olive oil factories have now been established to process the olives from the recovered olive groves.
  • The area now produces more than 30,000 litres of extra virgin olive oil in a responsible sustainable way that in 2020 won two awards, one national and one international.
  • The social enterprise has gone from 1 employee to 11 - with a maximum peak of 18 employees in the campaign.
  • Other programs related to

What does it bring the village/community?

  • The project has really transformed the local development perspective of the village. From having no hope, the municipality is now a positive trajectory.
  • The project has seen inward investment to the village for the first time in decades and restored local means of production, creating local jobs and the potential for more.
  • Beyond the direct jobs created in the olive production chain, the initiative has also attracted more than 3,000 people every year to visit their olive tree in Oliete. This generates further economic opportunities for local people.
  • The initiative has turned around the loss of population in the village and is directly linked with saving the village’s school.

What’s needed

Financial resources

Main types of cost:

• Human resources (salaries IT team)

• IT developers

• IT team

• Farming tools

• IT software and hardware

• Licenses

• Investing in new ICT systems

Financial needs:

• 8 € per olive tree recovered every year

• Currently, we spend around 80.000 € per year on our smart solution

Funding received:
Own income earned through sponsorship48,000 €The complete process of recovery of the olive grove and the maintenance of the project in an integral way
Donations from foundations and private institutions16,000 €Innovation projects and search for new possibilities to grow in our 4S impact
Sales of Mi Olivo products from Apadrinaunolivo.org12,000 €Investment in improvements and in recovering more olive groves. Environmental and social awareness and education actions for sustainable rural development and smart village
Other resources that generates with its activity4,000 €Environmental and social awareness and education actions for sustainable rural development and smart village

Human resources

A full-time IT resource to work in depth and with dedication on the IT strategies and IT development of and our Smart Rural project

Physical resources

• New computers;

• Renewal of mobile equipment;

• Improvement of telecommunications networks in rural areas, the arrival of fiber optics is urgently required to Oliete, Teruel, Spain.

What to do…

  • Launch a pilot scheme to test and demonstrate the potential benefits of further investment

and not to do

  • The worst thing you can do is do nothing!

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