The strawberry fields in the Sason district provide employment to roughly 350 families. They are the lifeblood of the tiny, rural village of Yeniköy.
They are also the namesake of their newly constructed primary school.
Four years ago, strawberries were introduced to local farmers as part of UNDP in Turkey’s regional development project; since then, nearly 700 fully equipped and confined orchards having been laid out.
We carried out this project with the help of the Turkish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock and the International Fund for Agriculture Development.
The aim was to expand fruit production in the region, and ensure a significant increase in incomes for farmers in the three provinces. This is a region where tobacco had traditionally been the primary source of livelihood.
With the support provided by project, tobacco, which requires an onerous cultivating process, has been replaced by the strawberry, a crop with a bigger customer base and higher profit rates.
Professor Sevgi Paydaş Kargı from University of Çukurova who facilitated trainings on sustainable farming methods explains:
“I think that the strawberry has become really important for this region because it can be cultivated here both in summer and fall. Also, there is a shortfall of strawberries in Turkey and we will be able to export it to other provinces and neighbouring countries.”
The resulting numbers speak for themselves: twenty percent of the local population, who had to work as seasonal workers or migrate, are now employed in the berry business.
Furthermore, thanks to the orchards’ yields, the incomes of local farmers have tripled.
Sustainable farming, efficient water use
Technical study tours were organized to support farmers in using their water sources effectively, efficiently, and as necessary.
Farmers were informed on drip irrigation systems, which are developed according to the needs of seedling, instead of the traditional techniques that have been known to render the soil infertile.
With the contributions of the project, 1.2 million seedlings by the end of last year.Increasing the rate of grants to 70 percent in 2014, 2.3 million more seedlings are planned.
As a result of the project activities, we are aiming to increase strawberry seedling production in Turkey by 4.3 percent in the project by the end of the year.
Even the children of Yenikoy are getting in on the action.
On September 2013, the principal of the local primary school along with the village mayor decided to collectively change the name of the school to “Strawberry Elementary”, a touching tribute to the fruit’s sweet influence on the town, and beyond.
What do you think? Could strawberry cultivation work in your town?