The Messara Plain and the Asterousia Mountains, which fall directly to the shores of the Libyan Sea, make up the region of southern Crete, where MAZI’s activities are focused. The provincial capital there is Mires.
In 2011, just under 39,000 people lived in the Messara, 5,500 in the mountains and coast. The population is stagnating as the age average increases.
Employment situation (Messara / Asterousia respectively): Agriculture 56% / 67%; Industry and commerce 10% / 6%; Service 30% / 23%. The level of education is relatively low in both regions, with 60 and 70 percent of the residents having only primary education, respectively. The total number of holdings is 10,500 at the level, against 1,800 in the mountains. Since about 1990, the number of immigrants (Albanians, Bulgarians, Russians, and more recently Asian workers) has been growing. Due to the rugged topography on the coast, the increase in tourism as a source of income is rather limited or already exhausted.
Market in Mires
The Messara is next to the Lassithi Plateau as the most fertile region in Crete. Cultivation has changed quite radically from grain to olive cultivation since the seventies of the last century. Greenhouses have increasingly displaced outdoor crops for both regions. The mountains are partly quite barren (especially in summer), in the valleys and on protected slopes are also countless olive groves to find. As cultivation area is used in the Messara 75 percent, in the mountains 30 percent. In the case of pastureland, the ratio looks the other way around: 16 percent against 60 percent (about 90,000 sheep and goats in 2000, today the number will be much higher). It is striking that the number of shepherds decreases as the number of animals increases. There are hardly any forested areas in either region (2% each).
Messara plain and Asterousia Mountains
Both regions suffer equally from environmental problems. Soil erosion and lack of water are to some extent already regarded as existentially threatening (for the water problem see separate menu item). In the mountains, some areas are already showing signs of desertification. In general, there is a certain indifference to environmental concerns. However, there are substantial approaches to rethinking here and there (see the menu items Projects).
Within the population as well as between farmers and institutions, the relationship is characterized by little mutual trust. The biggest problem in Crete, according to a resident working in an agricultural cooperative, is the fact that everyone thinks only of themselves and their own success. Community projects as well as grassroots methods (bottom-up) are therefore scarce. They all therefore deserve more support, not least as pilot projects that could go to school.
The Greek crisis is not so noticeable on the rural island as in big cities like Athens or Thessaloniki. If you take a closer look, you’ll still find a lot of closed shops and small businesses in Mires. Through self-sufficiency and family relationships can be caught here and there a lot. Ultimately, however, this is far from enough, as pensions have steadily declined, and social and work support hardly exists. The situation is also dramatic in health care.
Farming in a Melitakes cooperative