Olive oil production in Molise helps fight violence against women

Five women, 600 olive trees, the culmination of care and enterprise: an agricultural and social project financed by European funds.

An olive tree about one hundred years old has a chasm burned in the center of the trunk because of a lightning strike.  They call it “Fausto”, lucky, because it has returned to bear fruit thanks to five women from an anti-violence center, who participated in the ASPEm project - Social Agriculture for the Promotion of Empowerment of Women and Single Parent Families with Minors. 

It’s happening in Molise, Italy, where the social cooperative Be Free, which for years, also in other regions of Italy, has been managing centers that combat gender violence, and Kairos social cooperative, works thanks to a grant of 30,000 euros from the European Social Fund of 2014-2020.

"The levels of female employment in Italy are very low”, explains Oria Gargano, president of the Be Free Cooperative, “we are among the lowest in Europe.  Economic autonomy is the basis for being able to get out of a situation of violence. In Lazio, we have won a bid: an agri- food project to fight male violence against women, involving Slowfood and Eataly.  We will plant seeds, plants that favor the reproduction of microorganisms and bacteria and make the earth alive and hospitable.  This also helps to build a hospitable environment for insects.  In short, an agri-food project, that is also green, to combat violence against women”.

Five women

Psychologists, social workers, lawyers, oil experts, entrepreneurs and businesswomen, agri- tourism managers and marketing experts have collaborated to create ASPEm.  A team that worked in synergy, but also across different levels of the project.  In fact, the five women who joined the project (seeking respite from situations of violence and economic hardship), had access to a training course on the methods and supply chain of oil production, and they supervised fields left by owners who were no longer in a position to take care of them. 

The land was cleared and branches that could have hindered harvesting were removed, learning first hand what there is to know about the plants and allowing the olive trees to produce more fruit.  The women then applied mosquito nets, took care of the harvest in October, and pressed the olives at the mill and bottled the Extra- Virgin Olive oil. "Twice as many bottles as last year,” said Nicola Malorni, president of Kairos, “and laboratory analysis found that the vitamin E exceeds the average nutritional characteristics, reaching 266 milligrams per kilogram".

Top quality oil

Such good quality oil didn't take long to become well- known when the women launched it online and organized tastings.  Sales skyrocketed, restaurants in the area bought it, and ASPEm became a self-sustaining project.  Some of the women have left the farm to lead different lives, others are still employed in the project and are planning to expand it by involving other disadvantaged or struggling people, such as prisoners or the disabled.

In short, it is the success story of five women who chose to get out of a situation of violence, met other women and a center that welcomed them.  There, they learned how to take care of 600 olive trees that no one could care for anymore.  An olive oil was born, it's called ASPEm.  Inside, there are the pressed olives of Fausto, the lucky tree that came back to life....

The local ice cream shop has made it into a gourmet ice cream flavor, just ask for a taste test.

Ph: La Repubblica