Legal, economic, socio-political and cultural barriers to agricultural production in Turkey, what needs to be done and experiences from the field were discussed at a roundtable meeting organized by Istanbul Bilgi University and Support to Life Association.
Istanbul Bilgi University European Union Institute and Support to Life Association, the partner organizations of the MATILDE project, funded within the scope of the EU HORIZON 2020 program, held a comprehensive roundtable meeting that discussed agricultural development from different perspectives.
At the meeting titled “The Relationship between Sustainable Development and Migration in Rural Areas” held at Istanbul Bilgi University Santral Campus on May 12, the legal, economic and socio-political-cultural dimensions of agricultural production were covered in 3 different sessions and policy recommendations were discussed.
In addition to academics from various disciplines, the roundtable meeting was attended by representatives of local governments and non-governmental organizations working on rural development and migration in the field, such as Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Social Services Department Migration and Integration Unit, UNHCR, Genç Hayat Foundation, Yerküre Cooperative, TABİT Smart Agricultural Technologies, Development Workshop.
“Ownership of the Land Should Not Give the Right to Leave It Empty”
Speaking in the first part of the meeting, Akdeniz University Faculty of Law faculty member Assoc. Professor Ayşe Arat gave information about the legal dimensions of the problem of land division by inheritance, which reduces the productivity of agricultural lands in Turkey. Pointing out that the size of the agricultural production potential in the lands left idle in agriculture has reached 40 billion TL according to data from 2014, Arat emphasized that agriculture is related to both labor law because it is a sector where unregistered work is common, and inheritance law on the grounds that division of lands causes loss of productivity.
One of the session participants, Prof. Dr. İbrahim Ak, a faculty member of Bursa Uludağ University Faculty of Agriculture, took the floor and emphasized that the aim was to expand small agricultural lands, and he said: “Ownership of the land should not give us the right to leave it empty”. Emphasizing the importance of education in agriculture, Ak also stated that one of the main problems today is that the younger generation does not want to do farming.
“Migration Is Not the Solution for Farmers”
In the second session, the economic dimensions of agriculture were discussed. In the session where the use of technology in agricultural production was mostly discussed, the speaker Tülin Akın talked about her smart village project. Mentioning that she also comes from a farmer family and that she has transformed the village she lives in Aydın, in the Aegean region of Turkey, into a ‘smart village’, that they established an academy for technological agricultural production and that they provided information to 1.5 million farmers, Akın listed the main problems of farmers as follows:
“Agricultural workers have no say in the price of the product they produce. Originally, it is women who produce the product, but they face many problems as they are not considered farmers as a line of business. Migration is also not a solution for farmers, because when they come from the countryside to the city, they become unskilled workers. Young people do not see farming as a success, they see it as a retirement plan.” Emphasizing that climate change creates uncertainty in many issues, especially the harvest dates in agriculture, Akın emphasized that technology-supported production is essential for both the yield of the product and the increase in the potential in agricultural production.
“The Goal Should Be to Improve the Lives of People in Rural Areas”
In the last session, which included the socio-political and cultural dimensions of agricultural production, Prof. Dr. Pınar Uyan Semerci from the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences of Bilgi University touched upon the concept of development and the political-social-based problems in the agricultural sector. Stressing that seasonal agriculture is the area where both labor and deprivation are most intense, Uyan Semerci stated that although all agricultural areas have different conditions, informality is still a big problem. Saying that the concept of development should be examined not only from the perspective of economic development, but also from the perspective of the individual’s well-being, Semerci said: “Our goal should be to improve the lives of people in rural areas. But this calls for another kind of policy making”.
The outputs of the meeting, which was enriched with the active participation of the participants, will be used in the report to be prepared within the scope of the MATILDE project and which will include policy recommendations.
Focusing on the impact of migration on the local development of rural and mountainous regions, the MATILDE project aims to make a multidimensional assessment of the economic and social impacts of migrants within a conceptual and methodological framework. The outputs of field research in 10 countries of the project, which will continue until 2023, have been recently published as a report. Focusing on Bursa, Karacabey region in Turkey, the field research examines the impact of immigrants on the labor market and local economy, especially in rural-mountainous settlements.