First discovered in the touristic Gallipoli region in 2013, the bacteria Xylella Fastidiosa has rapidly been killing olive trees in Salento over the past several years. The disease is spread by sap sucking insects and stops the flow of water and nutrients through the xylem vessels, causing trees to die from the inside out. In an effort to contain further outbreaks, EU authorities dictate that all trees within 100 metres of one affected must be destroyed, whether it is infected or not. The result is economic catastrophe in a region where olive oil production is the main source of income, which has now been cut in half, and farmers across Europe now fear an uncontrolled spread of the pathogen.
Thousands of farmers in Salento have lost their life’s work, and the devastating repercussions push beyond the environmental landscape to the daily lives of the population, causing the loss of their unique human and cultural heritage.
While no direct remedy to stop the pest and save the trees has yet been found, agronomists and scientists are researching solutions. In particular, experiments are underway using shoots of wild olive trees found still alive and germinating within Xylella-devastated areas, grafting them onto more productive tree variants in an effort to create a resistant ‘super-tree’ species.
Caimi + Piccinni have taken a passionate but careful approach to documenting this subject, exposing the farmers’ very personal stories with utmost concern for the tragic circumstances they are suffering. By interviewing the farmers, they give a public voice to their opinions and experience. See their multimedia video presentation (MP4) including discussions with farmers on their land. While photographing the region over the period of six years, Caimi + Piccinni lived in an olive oil mill and developed their films there.
Design by Tiffany Jones