Role in the project; Leader of Pilot 7 Aoos Valley

“The High Mountains” is a social cooperative founded in 2015 by people who live and produce in mountainous areas. Our members are farmers, food processors, livestock farmers, beekeepers, but also carpenters, stone builders, artists, makers and scientists. Our vision is to succeed in a “Worthliving Integrated Development” scheme in mountainous areas. We try to revive our villages in an holistic way, to adopt or create models and techniques of producing, distributing, consuming and living, customized to the special needs, conditions and environments of the places we have chosen to live in and attached to the values we want to live by. Our goals and work include efforts in many different, but interconnected fields.

Boosting Mountainous Economy and Production
  • In general, we adopt the Commons Based Peer Production and the Design Global Manufacture Local concept, which enables us to be a part of the global village, to lift the barriers of mountainous isolation, to share the knowledge we have with others and take new inputs from them. For that, we collaborate with the Tzoumakers makerspace, making our own small-scale, opensource agricultural tools.
  • We embrace traditional products, ways and methods of production, evolving them by mixing them with modern technology
  • We try to create and promote consumer cooperatives and Community Supported Agriculture systems as a way to lift the isolation from the markets that both consumers and producers are faced with in mountainous areas.
  • We are a network of people who live and produce in the mountains, so we are trying to create a common mountainous brand for our products in order to promote them through practices like collective marketing.
Reviving Mountainous Societies
  • To revive the decimated mountainous societies and make our lives better, with more social interaction, but also to solve the issue of the lack of a workforce, we use platforms like WWOOF, Workaway, HelpX to attract volunteers from all around the world. Every year our members host travellers who live our lives, help us in our work, bring new ideas, live together with our families and make our villages more vivid.
  • We organize the High Mountains Solidarity Tours to help each other in different projects or works, but also to meet and have a nice time together
  • We give the opportunity to visitors to customize a tour around our members’ places, see and learn about the lands, our history and culture, our projects, taste our products, meet our people, live for a while like us, with us. Even if it is, we don’t consider this a touristic product, but mostly a part of our social life (philoxenia) and a deep need and opportunity to communicate the authentic side of our culture and life.
  • The cooperative, through its members and their knowledge, offers advice to whoever wants to leave city life and relocate to a mountainous village. Also, we offer consultancy to mountainous municipalities about policies they can adopt to help people to relocate in their territory.
Protect the Environment, Reclaim Mountainous Space and Abandoned Properties
  • All of our members produce in a respectful way towards nature (organic, natural cultivation, permaculture)
  • We develop new ways of cultivation and types of infrastructure to reclaim difficult and inaccessible mountainous space (rocky and hard soil, big slopes, small pieces of land, terraces)
  • We are trying to restore old infrastructures and make good use of abandoned properties. To do that we are mapping all the abandoned infrastructure, houses, fields, resources, etc. and we propose to their owners ways of collective investment to make good use of their financial resources, so they can benefit themselves and further develop the area.

Key person(s)

Dr. Sotiris Tsoukarelis – He is a political scientist from the University of Crete, who has studied in the National Technical University of Athens’s Interdisciplinary Center of Research in the field of Environment and Development of Mountainous Areas in 2012. From then, he is an activist of the mountainous areas and the agropastoral sector. He is an active farmer and cultivates vegetables in 1000m altitude in his prototype farm. He is the founder and president of “The High Mountains’ ‘ Social Cooperative Enterprise. He is also trained by the American Farm School’s Alternative Tourism programme in the fields of Creation of Tourism Experiences, Gastronomic Tourism, Alternative Tourism Marketing and Agrotourism. Furthermore, he has a diploma in dairy farming and cheese making from the Dairy Vocational School of Ioannina. He has a complete picture of the pilot area as he has elaborated before an Integrated Development Plan for Konitsa’s district. Contact:

Dr. Thaleia Pantoula – She is an archaeologist with M.A. in Cultural Mediation in Museums from Roma Tre University. In particular her fields of study focus in the concept of mediation, concept of communication, general teaching, with reference to the affective, cognitive and evaluative aspects, museum teaching theory, analysis of the characteristics of the public, collection concept, elements of cataloging history and museum marketing. She is trained by the Museum Sector Alliance (MU.S.A) in Essential Digital Skills for Museum Professionals, among them managing data, information and digital content, ICT tools and means for applying in the museum objects, developing digital content and identifying needs and technological responses. She has worked both in the public and private sector. In the private sector she worked as an archeologist and museologist in the Ali Pasha museum in Ioannina, one of the most visited museums in Greece. In the public sector she has worked in the 19th office of Byzantine Antiquities, in the Archeological Institute of Epirotic Studies and also in the Municipality of Zitsa as an archeologist and museologist.

Dr. Vaios Kotsios – He has a PhD in the field of integrated development planning from the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) (2016) and also master from the NTUA (2009) as well as the University of the Aegean (2007). He specializes in integrated development planning, environmental science, mixed methods research, big data analysis, business intelligence and geographical information systems. Since 2018 he is a lecturer at the Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Studies Program of the National Technical University of Athens “Environment and Development”. Since 2009 he has participated in the same Program as a special researcher and has supervised over 27 college-interdisciplinary projects in the field of integrated development at regional and local level. Since July 2016 he has been a key researcher at the Labor Market Needs Analysis Mechanism implemented by the Ministry of Labor, the National Institute of Labor and Human Resources and a wide network of actors. At the same time, he has developed collaborations in several projects such as a being principal researcher of Public Properties Company SA, Manpower Employment Organization (OAED), National Technical University of Athens, Athens Chamber of Commerce, Epirus Prefecture, Attica Prefecture, Public Power Corporation S.A.-Hellas, ESF Actions Coordination and Monitoring Authority (EYSEKT), Hellenic Agency for Local Development and Local Government (E.E.T.A.A.) S.A, as well as many municipalities within the educational activities of the NTUAs Interdisciplinary Center for Research.