Despite efforts, some communities still losing people

Despite having the natural resources, villages still see their human resources drifting to the cities. Kallieis, Fokida. In the municipality of Kallieis in Fokida, for example, the population is shrinking and the traditional animal husbandry is being abandoned. The mayor of the district, Leonidas Karayiannis, feels that «the creation of a low-impact tourist industry is the only solution. Our area has a number of assets: It lies between the mountains of Oiti, Giona and Vardousia, and most of the villages are at about 1,000 meters above sea level, next to thick forests and springs. That is why we are looking into building a small ski center on Vardousia, as well as a small forest village. But the situation is difficult. In summer, the municipality has 5,000 residents and in winter, only 300…» Paranesti, Drama. Similar problems are being faced by the village of Paranesti in the prefecture of Drama. «Generally speaking, the population is steady,» Mayor Alexandra Sotiriadou explained. «However, in the last few years, young people have been leaving to study and not returning. In any case, the whole prefecture has a huge problem of unemployment, because, although a border region, it has not been helped, like Thrace, with measures to assist development.» While the area still has a number of stock-breeding units, it’s a sector young people seem reluctant to enter. The only solution in this case as well seems to be agrotourism. «Our municipality is the second largest in terms of size in Greece. It has unique natural resources, like virgin forest. We are trying to protect and publicize this natural wealth, so that the area benefits from controlled, low-impact tourism.» Pontokerasia, Kilkis. The village of Pontokerasia is also losing people. «Currently, there are 220 permanent residents, less than in the last census. We are making efforts to reverse the situation,» said the local mayor, Georgios Gavriilidis. The Balkan Botanical Gardens created by the National Agricultural Research Foundation is beginning to attract people. A new bungalow complex provides the essential infrastructure. «Our aim is to create a complete ecotourist cycle, where individuals can spend three days full of different activities.»