Educational trip of Georgetown University students on water management in Andros!

It took a few months, remote consultations and a preparatory trip to Andros to plan as an organization, in collaboration with faculty and staff from Georgetown University Qatar and Earth Commons, an educational trip for 14 undergraduate students to Andros.

The reason why Andros was a stop on a wider educational trip for students who traveled from Qatar to our island was to get to know the traditional system of surface water management, which our organization has been studying for the last year, with the support of the initiative Cycladic Identity. The educational trip lasted from May 22 to 26, was organized as part of the Symposium “Adaptation in a climate change hotspot” and included, apart from Andros, visits to Athens, Syros and Paros.

The aim of the trip was for the students to understand the effects of the phenomenon of climate change, the interactions of the phenomenon with water management practices, food production and in general social/economic development and environmental protection. All critical issues for our country as well, which underline the necessity of raising awareness and planning policies for sustainability.

The 14 students who visited our island from 13 different countries, with different origins and subjects of study, aware of climate change and environmental management, moved us with their interest and concern for the future of our island. They connected the experiences of their own countries, Kazakhstan, India, Iran, Qatar, Pakistan, France, Algeria, Jordan, Brazil, Nepal, Bahrain, Tajikistan and Afghanistan, with the objects of their studies and the reality of Andros, in a group reflection on the future of the island. The students were accompanied by 4 members of the teaching and administrative staff of Georgetown University.

The students’ trip to Andros included presentations by collaborating researchers mainly on water management along with field visits, presentations by researchers active in Andros in the fields of flora, fauna, cultural heritage, as well as presentations by representatives of organisations that act for environmental protection, the risks and challenges that Andros faces in modern reality. Let’s see the program in detail day by day:

Day 1: Thursday, May 23 

Students and professors gathered at our organisation’s new office space in Agios Spyridonas and were given time to introduce themselves and share their thoughts and expectations from their Andros travel program. Afterwards, Olga Karagianni presented the history and projects of our organization, the achievements and challenges it faces in continuing its vision for a more sustainable Andros.

The program then included:

  • presentation by the mycologist Elias Polemis on nature, biodiversity, Natura areas, the rare and endangered species of flora and fauna of Andros, with special reference to the mycofauna
  • presentation by the environmentalist Alexandros Mavis on water in Andros, the transition from abundance to scarcity with management as a critical factor
  • presentation by the historian Lena Beneki on the historical study of surface water management in Andros and by the engineer Giorgos Vrettos on the field research he is carrying out, all action sections that our organization completes in a few days regarding the study and documentation of traditional water management practices in Andros.

The students were then accompanied by Giorgos Vrettos and Olga Karagianni on a hiking route that presents a number of water structures, from Apoikia to the Agadaki estate. The short visit to Pythara and the Sariza spring was followed by a tasty picnic with local products at the arched bridge of the Apikia. This was followed by a visit to the Botanical Garden – Agadaki Estate where Elias Polemis spoke about the endemic species of flora, the mushrooms and guided the students to the estate’s olive mill. Then the students visited the wetland in Gialia and discussed the importance of wetlands and their water quality in Andros with Alexandros Mavis.

Day 2: Friday, May 24 

On the second day, Friday, May 24, the students’ program included a visit to the Cultural Association of Menites, a conversation with the representatives Despina Chatzoglou and Lia Zerva, and a hike on the circular route of Menites Men1, where they had the opportunity to see the springs of Menites, the ravines that adorn the settlement, fountains in operation, springs, cisterns and watermills. Afterwards, they visited Livada Farm in Mesaria where they learned about sustainable and regenerative farming and tasted products from the estate, while Alexandros Mavis spoke to us about the fires in Andros, using useful material kindly provided by Nikos Chazapis, representative of the Environmental Education Center of Korthi Andros and president of the Association of Volunteer Firefighters of Andros. The day ended with a visit to the Foros Cave and the Olive Museum, where the students had the opportunity to enjoy the guided tours.

Day 3: Saturday, May 25 

The day started at the office of our organization, where Eleni Kalavria, Archaeologist of the Cyclades Antiquities Authority, presented the students and professors of Georgetown University with a summary of the antiquities of Andros and provided in the context of a dialogue a lot of information about the use of water in ancient Andros. The day then included a visit to Stamou Farm, a tour of the premises and the traditional cheese making process and tastings. The day continued with a visit to Giorgos Manalis’ orchard in Livadia where he, with the help of Alexandros Mavis, guided our guests through the history of lemon production in Andros, the operation of a typical citrus estate in Livadia, an emblematic area of ​​their production, and the challenges and issues facing this important historical culture on the island. Afterwards, the students walked on the hiking circular route of Livadia (No 17), had lunch at a local restaurant and returned by walking to Chora. On their return, they collected and examined the type of waste that pollutes the Great River.

This trip would not have been so meaningful and successful without the contribution of the people who framed it, the researchers and institutions and those who welcomed the Georgetown University team to their premises. Warm thanks to the speakers Lena Beneki, Giorgos Vrettos, Elias Polemis, Eleni Kalavria and Alexandros Mavis who framed the program, Nikos Chazapis from the Environmental Education Center of Korthi Andros and the Association of Volunteer Firefighters of Andros and Architect Ioulia Papaeftyhiou for the material they provided us, the Kairios Library for the visit in the Botanic Garden – Agadaki Estate, Giorgos Manalis for the hospitality at his orchard, Evangelia Kaklamani from Zairis Patisserie, Athena Stamou from Stamou Farm, Alexandros Kostis from Livada Farm, Despina Chatzoglou and Lia Zerva from Mainites Cultural Association, Froso Kaladami from the Foros Cave, Dimitris Chelmis from the Cyclades Olive Museum.

Many thanks to the amazing team of Georgetown University Qatar, for their cooperation, trust, genuine interest and love for what they do.

The journey doesn’t stop here… soon we will share with you a survey questionnaire designed by a group of students, as part of their internship following this trip, about water management in Andros!

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