Supporting Agriculture, Supporting People
Kars and environs are known in Turkey for animal husbandry, harsh topography, high elevation, long and relentless winters, and rather short productive seasons. The region raises a major part of fattened livestock in Turkey. That said, is Kars good only for animal husbandry, or will the region cave in to the prevalent harsh ecological conditions? Not all plants grow well in Kars due to an average elevation of 1,600 meters (from the sea level); small touches however suffice to unearth the true potential of the region.
Regional people tended to use a larger part of their land to grow crops suitable for animal fodder. There were few, if any, signs of horticulture or greenhouse farming around. That changed rapidly in the last three years. Now Kars and Kagizman environs have gardens and greenhouses many more than once imaginable. Such a major change was driven by a project of great importance to the region: AKADP.
Habib is a case in point: Habib and his father are farmers in Kagizman district of Kars. Habib said he heard of the Project from a friend. Habib wished to construct a greenhouse on his land, so filed an application two years ago with the Project. Under the Project operating on the basis of co-financing, the first greenhouse was built.
“I used to get one round of crop a year, now I can harvest 5 crops a year from the greenhouse. It is like a miracle to us.”
In subsequent years, Habib had three more greenhouses constructed. Today, Habib’s garden is an exemplary one in Kagizman. People visit the place to see how simple and effective agricultural methods unearthed the potential they had.
Let us have a look into the Project that changed the lives of Habib and his family within a span of merely two years. Ardahan-Kars-Artvin Development Project, AKADP, is implemented by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock in cooperation with UNDP, and funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Its overall objective is to reduce rural poverty in the Provinces of Ardahan, Kars and Artvin through investing in small farms and non-farm enterprises and rural infrastructure, and providing support to institutional capacity building.
Experts working for UNDP in the region should be credited for the goals achieved. Mahmut Sevgi is one of those experts. Mahmut has, since the start of the Project, been engaging in agricultural activities aimed to reduce rural poverty in the region.
His activities included the construction of gardens and greenhouses through co-financing support in Artvin and Kagizman. However, it was not so easy to convince regional people on the benefits of the activity.
“Initially we had serious difficulties. We had to build up example areas to show farmers in the region how to work with greenhouses and gardens. We demonstrated how to farm a garden in accordance with the current agricultural technique.”
Regional people’s interest in the Project markedly increased in the last year. To date, greenhouses were built for 152 producers on a total land of 12 decares in Artvin and 4 decares in Kars. Each square meter of such greenhouses can produce 25 kilograms of vegetables on average.
Individual diet around Kars relies generally on meat and grains, and the consumption of vegetables and fruits is rather low in the region. Other initiatives were taken on this matter, small in finance but big by impact. Adjacent to the greenhouses for producers, 127 gardens of 48 square meters each were established exclusively for women who also received practical training.
“Thanks to these small-scale gardens, the diet of regional people was diversified, with vegetables and fruits included as daily food items. This alone was a big step to unearth the potential of the region.”
The Project also constructed roads to highlands and water infrastructure for animals to support the infrastructure for animal husbandry, the most important means of livelihood in the region; and distributed seeds for fodder plants to 1,031 farmers assisting the production of fodder plants on an area of 10,000 decares. These figures multiplied in the last three years through exchange among producers. Many things achieved by the Project are simply impossible to express in figures. The exemplary agricultural production in villages are replicated by producers to become the general practice. While not capturable as statistics, their positive impact on the region is well visible.
Since the start of the project, a total assistance of 6,306,000 TL has been provided to regional farmers for closed orchards and greenhouse vegetable farming. It is expected that, particularly when gardens and orchards become functional, the region will annually contribute to the national economy 4 times the money spent.
The Project engages not only in financial assistance or infrastructural works for agriculture and livestock husbandry; it also invests in human beings, dispatching selected farmers to various regions of Turkey to receive training.
For more information on the Project, please visit Project Webpage. https://goo.gl/3S5MhG