Lives changed through innovative approaches

Sep 1, 2018

I wish to be a shepherd if I were to be born again

Ardahan, Kars and Artvin are among the socio-economically least developed provinces of Turkey. In addition, rough topography, high elevation, long and severe winters, short growing seasons distances to other parts of the country exacerbate the socio-economic situation for the rural population.

Now, under the Ardahan-Kars-Artvin Development (AKAK) Project that lasted 5 year, efforts of smallholding and non-farm investments to reduce rural poverty, investments in rural infrastructure and institutional capacity building are now bearing fruits.

Significant steps have been taken in the region whose major means of subsistence is livestock husbandry. One of such steps is the mobile shepherd’s shelters with solar power. Now there are a total of 86 mobile shepherd shelters with 61 in Ardahan, 20 in Kars and 5 in Artvin.

A shepherd’s shelter with a trailer can be towed by a tractor up to the high plateaus where shepherds graze their animals. A solar panel on the roof generates electricity for own use. It enables the use of lighting, operating a television set, a mini refrigerator, 3 mobile phones and 1 laptop computer. The shepherd’s shelter is made of non-flammable materials and insulated slabs. While stoves are fired in August in other tents where shepherds sleep, the insulated shepherd’s shelters need no heating. With an available area of 8 m2, each shelter features a kitchen counter, foldable table, shower cabin, 100-litre water tank, 20-litre solar-heated shower tank, fire-extinguisher and first-aid box. Before the project, shepherds had to live in make-shift tents, take showers out in the open, have problems of battery charge for their mobile phones due to lack of electrical power; not their lives are getting better every day with the shepherd’s shelters project.

During the design of the shepherd’s shelters, shepherds and village masters were interviewed, shepherds’ needs in the field were identified, and efforts were made to provide comfort on par with homes.

Shepherd İsmail Çakırcı, using the mobile shepherd’s shelters in Alagöz Village of Ardahan, stated that “Compared to the earlier times, shelters are very useful, appropriate. Earlier, we used to live in difficult conditions. Now, we have electricity, generated from solar system, to charge our telephones, our lanterns, our light is on. Compared to the earlier times, it is very useful, very beautiful. In addition, it has a livestock pen next to it. With this practice in this project, interest in being a shepherd will increase. I am a certified shepherd. If I were to be born again, I wish to be a shepherd; I would graze animals, I would want this shelter.” 

Ardahan Alagöz Village Master Gülmehmet Çerkez expressed that “We did not have shepherd’s shelters. The man would sleep by a rock. This shelter thing is a very special thing for the shepherd; it has electricity charging the man’s phone and keeping lamps on. It even has a bath inside. Our shepherds are very happy. Would those who see this want to become a shepherd or not? Shepherds are now in competition asking me “please bring one for us too”. All shepherds, be it for cattle or goat&sheep, they want one. The more shelters we have, the more shepherds we will have; and livestock husbandry improves, right?” 

Reşat Akçay of Alagöz Village Committee said that “We used to sleep by the rocks; now this shelter thing came very well. With such services, the villagers will remain in their places, no migration happens, and livestock husbandry is enjoyable.”

In addition, highland clustering fences were constructed to ensure animal safety and veterinary services in the highlands. This space was designed to keep animals at a safe space during the night, prevent theft, and provide more practically veterinary services such as mass vaccination. AKAK Project on the one hand improves challenging lives of shepherds, and improves safety and health conditions for animals on the other. 

Ardahan Alagöz Village Master Gülmehmet Çerkez described the wire-fenced area by the shelter: “The wire-fenced space is an animal shelter; upon sunset, animals are brought in here. There are 200 animals, including the horse. There is also space for vaccination; veterinarians come in, we line up the animals on the left and right, they do the vaccination easily. Earlier it would take all day; now, we finish it in an hour.”

Modern livestock markets enable trade in healthier and better conditions

Another important work under the AKAK Project includes the construction of livestock markets. Many livestock markets operate without a license in our country, presenting an unhealthy environment both for animals and human beings.

A total of 7 livestock markets were intended to build in Center, Posof and Hanak districts of Ardahan; Selim, Sarıkamış and Kağızman districts of Kars; and Ardanuç district of Artvin. The livestock market at Ardanuç district was completed and commissioned in May 2015, that in Selim became operational in June 2018. The construction was completed for Posof, Hanak, Sarıkamış and Ardanuç livestock market; and the construction of Kağızman livestock market is about the start.

A prominent feature of the livestock markets commissioned under the project is that they operate on a license. These livestock market have indoor and outdoor paddocks, feedboxes, quarantine box, closed barn units, disinfection tunnel for vehicle entry, disinfection pit for animal entry on foot, animal weighscale, admin building and toilet.

Commissioned in 2018, Selim livestock market is held on Monday and Thursday. Mustafa Yücel, who has arrived at the market to sell his animals, stated that “We are very happy with the livestock market; it has water; we can place animals at certain locations. Be it cleanliness or water, this place is comfortable for the animals. It has an animal loading-unloading ramp. Earlier, animals get lost in an unruly area, everywhere was mud and rocks.” 

Selim Municipality’s Veterinarian Rıdvan Kaya narrated that “This livestock market is much beautiful compared to the earlier one. This area has severe winters; the market was full of mud, and the citizens had difficulty. Now it is concrete under, there are paddocks, animal unloading location. Paddocks are full, here there are more than 1,000 cattle. This is a great service, great facility for citizens. It is also important for animal health. We get animals inspected, examined in general for existence of any diseases, we also have a quarantine room.” 

Before the livestock markets were commissioned, merchant traders would go around in villages and buy villagers’ animals at very low prices, thus the winner was not the farmer, but the intermediaries. Once the livestock markets were commissioned, intermediaries disappeared, making it possible to sell the animals at true worth.

Veterinarian Rıdvan Kaya stated that “This is a meeting place; this market is important for improving animal health and also for human health. The purpose is to provide better conditions for human beings to trade their animals.”


Women are happier in family-style greenhouses


In this region whose major means of subsistence is livestock husbandry, challenging geographic and climatic conditions restrict agricultural production. Under the AKAK Project, family-style greenhouses aimed both to accustom women to raising crops in greenhouses, and change the uniform nutrition regime. The project provided all materials for the construction of greenhouses, and seedlings and saplings.

A total of 82 greenhouses were built, with 50 in Ardahan and 32 in Kars. Women operate the constructed greenhouses. They grow tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce etc. They are happy both for consuming what they grow, and for reduced kitchen expenses. 

Aysun Zırh, a lady using the family-style greenhouse in Sulakyurt Village of Kars, stated that “In the greenhouse built by the Provincial Directorate of Agriculture, we have for two years been growing cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and lettuce needed at our home. We no longer buy from elsewhere. Once you do the irrigation and pruning, it is not difficult. Thereby we are in the win. We also have good time.”

Abdullah Zırh is too happy with the greenhouse: “It gave us many things. Earlier, we did not grow vegetables, purchased from elsewhere. Now we grow our own vegetables, not for sale. Women take care of it. We have peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce.


Triticale is the new hope for farmers

Another important work under the Ardahan-Kars-Artvin Development (AKAK) Project involves triticale for which demonstrative seeding started. A hybrid of wheat and rye sown in the fall, triticale is very important for livestock husbandry in Kars, because it helps meet the need for quality rough fodder. As it is grown at lower cost and higher yield in unit area compared to other fodder plants, triticale gives a smile on farmers who engage in livestock husbandry. 

Agricultural Engineer Mehmet Ali Dertli of Selim District Directorate of Agriculture and Forestry indicated that Mehmet triticale was being sown for a third year in Selim and added: “We had people in the villages plant triticale this year as well. Triticale is a fodder plant, hybrid of wheat and rye. It can be roughly crushed and fed to the animals much the same as barley; it can be ground to flour, and then bread. Since livestock husbandry is advanced in our region, we use it as animal fodder. We have it sown in mix with common vetch varieties for demonstrative purposes. The average yield is 700-800 kg. This is our third year. Citizens welcome it; demand is high. It is sown in all villages. In the first year, we gave for a demonstration land of 5 acres. Next year, it will be 50,000 acres. When sown in mix with common vetch, the government aid is around 75 TL for the fodder plants. When they see the state aid, they tend to sow more.” 

Kurbani Cüce, a pioneer farmer and engaging in livestock husbandry in Büyükdere Village of Selim, Kars said that “I have been sowing this for 3 years. I am one of the first sowers around. We have a saying “friend for difficult times”, that is what I call it. Saves a man in a drought year. We sow in in the fall. The yield is high, its hay is good. Triticale is a unique product for our region. Many observed and received samples, we are very happy.” 

Adnan Gökdeniz is a farmer of 30 years. He narrated that he sowed triticale for the first time this year: “We too sow triticale. To date, we have not seen such a thing. It is a different thing, it is more as product, it has higher yield. It is different than other fodder plants; it reduces costs in a drought season. It could have saved us last year, not this year; because last year we had really hard time with the drought.”

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