Rigas Zafeiriou joined MedINA’s team in 2017 as a sustainable development and tourism consultant, focusing on the island of Kythera, his place of origin.
With a background in sustainable agriculture and rural development, Rigas has a deep respect for earth and its offerings. He always arrives at the office with a wide smile and a new, healthy recipe to share!
With his background and passion becoming manager of MedINA’s sustainable food systems programmes was a fitting path for both him and the organisation. Here is his personal testimony, along with many great wishes.
«I started working at MedINA organically, with a gradually increasing involvement over the years. At first, MedINA found me in Kythera as a member of the local community at the start of INCREAte project’s pilot application in the island.
MedINA was the only organisation so close to what I had done up to that point, talking about both natural and cultural heritage, so I fitted in perfectly both with the team and with the identity of the organisation. Today I continue my collaboration organically as I started, but with many more experiences!
Already in 2018, we had started research to implement a demonstration project for traditional and sustainable water management in Kythera. Three persons, with different backgrounds, found ourselves in a common place, in a favourable condition to revive the traditional practice of “desis” (stone weirs), continuing the work of Manolis Glezos with enthusiasm, perseverance and passion.
Thus, this local knowledge, variations of which are found in many parts of the Mediterranean, became something tangible and useful for the local community. In 2020, Karavas of Kythera took over from Apeiranthos of Naxos. Manolis Glezos, honorary doctorate of the Department of Civil Engineering of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the University of Patras, had visited Karavas on 13 October 2000 and was amazed by the dry-stone infrastructure of the famous gully, which is carved full of watermills, bridges, springs, waterfalls, terraces, cisterns, washes, etc. In his speech to the Kytherian Association of Chora that night, he had referred to such solutions to tackle water scarcity.
It took over 20 years with many obstacles to make this project a reality. With former colleague Nicos Georgiadis leading the effort and Harry Tzortzopoulos, organic farmer and president of the charitable foundation “Patrikios School of Karavas”, who had invited Manolis Glezos to Kythera, we built the stone weirs with local volunteers, a willing crew and the moral support of many more people. The small budget painstakingly secured by the Kytherian Foundation for Culture and Development (KIPA) became a small but magical project, the impact of which went beyond the island’s borders.
My mind went back some years, to 2013, when I had proposed integrated water resource management with various small-scale projects such as stone weirs in the study on the impact of climate change on traditional farming systems that I had carried out as a consultant for UNESCO. Adopted and coordinated by MedINA and its collaborators, this solution has already passed through Paros, is now travelling to Sifnos and Ios, and has recently returned to UNESCO at the International Conference “Ancestral Hydro-technologies” in Barcelona.
I wish that this approach evolves, is enriched with complementary projects and new applications so that it becomes even more useful and effective for the communities where it is implemented.
MedINA is constantly changing, responding in an innovative way to the critical challenges facing society, especially in small, remote and less favoured areas of Greece.
Especially in the last few years, the organisation has been completely transformed by its strategic plan, its umbrella programmes, its board of directors, its stronger interaction with the local community and the pressing issues it addresses.
MedINA means caring for the wealth we have inherited from those who came before us and hope for the unknown world we will hand over to those who will follow. I hope it will shape new horizons, contributing to the greatest challenge of our time: genuinely.
sustainable and equitable development for the wellbeing of local communities. This development is effective, making use of all available human knowledge, traditional and scientific, combining it with smart solutions and bold new ideas. Restoring people’s relationship with their place, their society, their food and the natural world in general is at the heart of creating sustainable agri-food systems».