Returning Youths to Rural Areas

Philip Duzdabanian

Master in Sustainable Development for Environmental Changes and Ecosystems
at Utrecht University and member of Ecogenia

Between 2022 and 2023, the NGO Ecogenia carried out the Dorida project, a programme to implement sustainable rural tourism in a remote area of central Greece, between the villages of Alpochori and Zoriano. The project consisted of creating hiking trails based on routes of great historical and cultural importance in the area, which had been abandoned many years before, in order to promote sustainable and environmentally friendly tourism. Another of the basic objectives of the project consisted of promoting ecotourism strategies to encourage other initiatives and investments, both private and public. The Vardousia area, which is very mountainous and rural, has suffered from serious depopulation for many years, as well as numerous deficiencies in essential services. Rural tourism, promoted through projects such as Dorida, can meet the needs of the population when it comes to choosing places for leisure, and can also make these depopulated areas a permanent residence for young people who are looking for jobs and affordable housing.

The Dorida project was a pilot youth civic engagement programme organised by the NGO Ecogenia, which took place from May to July 2022, involving the creation of hiking paths and ecotourism training in a remote rural area located up in the Vardousia mountains of central Greece. The neighbouring villages of Alpochori and Zoriano where we would be based are located at an altitude of around 1,000 metres above sea level, with the nearest large town being Nafpaktos, a brief 1.5-hour drive away. This felt like the perfect opportunity for me, as a student of Environmental Studies, to study the terrain, fauna and flora, but also as a perfect way to re-establish a connection with nature after two long years of lockdowns in Athens following the COVID-19 outbreak. So, without hesitation, I applied, went through the interviewing process, and fortunately, was accepted.

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