Mürsel and Cemile Öncül pick apples in their village in Turkey’s Anatolia region.
Their orchard is small and the trees still young, but already, say the two pensioners, their efforts are paying off. They are making money off selling some of the apples, “and the rest we keep for ourselves and for our friends,” says Mürsel.
“It helps us economically, and I get to work alongside my husband, so we are happy,” adds Cemile.
The Öncüls received the saplings and irrigation system needed to start their orchard, through the Anatolia Watershed Rehabilitation Project, which aims at increasing agricultural income in Turkey’s rural communities in environmentally safe and sustainable ways.
It helps us economically, and I get to work alongside my husband, so we are happy.
The government-run project has provided thousands of rural inhabitants with saplings, as well as safe cultivation and irrigation technologies, which ensure that Turkey’s natural resources are not endangered.
“The drip system is more economical because the sprinkler is right at the roots of each sapling, and the water and fertilizers go only onto the saplings. Nothing is wasted and it is not dangerous,” says Durmus Arat, who received saplings and an irrigation system through the project to start his own grape vineyard.
As a result of the project, household incomes in targeted areas have increased by about 53 percent.
Soil fertility has improved as well, and land erosion has significantly abated.
The drip system is more economical because the sprinkler is right at the roots of each sapling... Nothing is wasted.
In addition, over 30 percent of farmers have adopted environmentally-friendly agricultural practices, including better manure management techniques, such as managed holding spots that prevent dangerous nitrates from flowing directly into the soil, and put Turkey more in line with EU standards.
“We got rid of the mess. We gather the manure and take it to the land when we need it,” says Ali Uysal, who raises cows for a living. The project helped him finance his own manure holding spot on his farm.
The Watershed Rehabilitation project – jointly funded by the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility – began in 2005, and has engaged local government and beneficiaries ever since in order to create a direct link between natural resource rehabilitation and tangible economic and social benefits, according to Turkey’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, which oversees the project.
“During the initial stages of the project, we informed the people about its goals and told them about the income-generating activities, and provided them with saplings and orchards and manure management and training,” says Ministry official, Gazi Erdemirci.
Under a cooperative component of the project, members of rural communities have pooled resources and, with project help, purchased what they decided their communities most needed.
Farmers in the township of Astagul asked the project for money to buy a community tractor, which everyone now uses to safely transport livestock manure to this new concrete managed site, built with project funds.
And not far off, in the hills, the tiny village of Cevezli petitioned the project for solar hot waters heaters.
Housewife, farmer, and mother of three, Sultan Erdemir says the new source of energy is cleaner, less time-consuming, and environmentally friendly because she doesn’t have to cut down as many trees.
“We used to heat the water with the wood-fired stove, but now we only need the wood for cooking,” she says.