300 inhabitants living together with 30.000 animals. Lack of water. Full of dirt. No school. No doctors. So how the disadvantaged, remote Anavra village of Magnesia became the most prosperous farming village in all of southern Europe, with an average household income €70.000?
The battle with misery began in the early 90s, when as mayor of the village was elected Dimitris Tsoukalas, a man with vision, who left Athens and returned to his village to offer to his hometown. The situation he encountered was hopeless. Anavra’s 30,000 cows, goats and pigs used to roam freely in the village, causing hygiene and health problems. Anavra had no paved roads, in winter people walked in mud, in summer were breathing the dust. The nearest school was a six hour mule ride away, so many children were forced to leave their hometown.
Anavra is a hidden village in a valley of Othrys Mountains and a former community in Magnesia, Thessaly, Greece. Lies about 250 km away from the Greek capital, Athens.
Dimitris Tsoukala’s first movement was to research about the available European projects for rural communities.
He traveled to Brussels and gathered all the necessary information, returned to Anavra, bypassed the local bureaucracy and applied for funding for environmentally focused European program.
He encouraged Anavra’s farmers to go organic, and to embrace clean energy sources.
An EU-subsidised wind farm followed, as well as EU-subsidised roads, stables, telephone lines and even an environmental park.
The town produces its own electricity by 20 wind-powered generators.
Surplus electrical power is sold. A hydroelectric plant is scheduled for construction, and a biomass facility is being planned which will supply heat and hot water from animal manure and woodchips
Anavra is the only area in Greece where unemployment and crime is 0% even in the hard crisis period that face Greece. The approximately 700 residents living now in the village are all breeders with modern farms owned. Livestock farming is the trade of Anavra, which has its own slaughterhouse and thus an entire commercial chain that brings revenue to its inhabitants. The annual income per capita is between 30,000 and 100,000 while the average age of the population is under 40 years.
The roads are paved, and most Anavrans drive pick-up trucks, not donkeys.
The village offers to the teachers and doctors that are coming from neighboring areas of the village free accommodation, so there is no need to leave.
Preventive medicine is provided free to all citizens – up to orthodontics. In this place, no one is alone and abandoned. Remote Anavra has a free gym, schools, a wind farm to generate up to 100,000 euros a year income to the community, football fields and basketball, Folklore Museum and an environmental and cultural park of 240 acres. Yes, and free high-speed internet for everyone.
Dimitris said: “It’s true that I am glad that my village took this publicity thanks to the work that has been done there, but I feel disappointed that there are no other examples like Anavra although they should and could. Because Anavra, except from a place of prosperity in Greece is also an example that when you want you can achieve what we everybody sometimes consider impossible and impractical.
We went in Anavra and worked as volunteers through a public operator. We were carrying as supplies as volunteers, our sensitivity to the environment, vision, interest and appetite for work, love and passion. We went to give and not to take back and we were placing the public interest above our personal benefit.
You just need to have, apart from skills, vision, interest, desire, faith and love for what you do.
Be honest and hard-working
Do not aim at your personal benefit and in your personal advancement. Do not be concerned about the political cost.
Do not serve any party space but working for the welfare and benefit of all your fellow citizens and country
I am optimistic that Anavra leads the way. If Anavra was able to regenerate, the same can happen for Greece, as long as those who will elect in a few days have the will to solve the problem and are determinate to put the interests of our country above their personal and political interests.”
Dimitris Tsoukalas is my hero!
Community office, Tel: 22320 91382
Communal Library, Tel: 22320 91210
Folklore Museum of Farming Life, Tel: 22320 91210
fb page: anavra.zo