Turkish university, FAO aim to improve local food systems

Turkey’s Bahçeşehir University and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) joined forces for a string of workshops that focuses on local food systems, gastronomy and women’s cooperatives.

A two-day training workshop was recently held in the Black Sea province of Ordu. The project aims to promote equal opportunities in education and sustainable development across the country. Trustees and president of the International Training Centre for Authorities and Leaders (CIFAL) Istanbul and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) collaborated on the project, which built on a pilot of training courses in Giresun, another Black Sea province.

Over 300 participants are expected to benefit from the training, including 80 women currently working in cooperatives in Ordu. The training is designed to strengthen the role of youth and women in agriculture, maximize benefits from the integration of local agricultural products into national development, contribute to sustainable development and incorporate innovation into smallholder agriculture, with a view to ensuring a stronger local food system. In addition, the training teaches women and young people about how cooperatives function and introduces technologies related to smart agriculture practices, in particular digital agriculture and sustainable food systems.

In his speech at the inauguration of the workshop, Viorel Gutu, FAO Central Asia subregional coordinator and Turkey representative, affirmed his strong support for increasing women’s employment and stated that empowering women and youth through women’s cooperatives will help society become more egalitarian.

He continued: “FAO’s new strategic framework places particular importance on technology and innovation in the agricultural sector – and the training program has been designed with this in mind. Participants who complete the training will become familiar with concepts such as smart agriculture, digital agriculture and sustainable food system technologies. In addition, they will have opportunities to increase their knowledge on various topics such as agricultural innovation, storage of agricultural products, community building and decision-making, creative communication techniques and marketing.”

Enver Yücel, BAU global chair and university chairperson of the board of trustees and president of CIFAL Istanbul, further underlined the importance of women’s cooperatives to smart and sustainable agriculture.

“Our valuable lands are crucial to the future of agriculture. For a sustainable world, it is vital to keep our soils fertile and to develop new and productive ideas through the effective use of technology. In this context, and with the cooperation of the UN, we are working to improve the employment of women through targeted training aimed at women’s cooperatives,” he said.

“We are also working to develop our country by highlighting local agricultural products. Above all, we are working to raise awareness. By incorporating all of these approaches into smart agriculture we will create innovation – and new global brands,” Yücel added.

Ayşegül Selışık, FAO assistant representative for Turkey, pointed out that FAO has a mandate to achieve food security for all and to ensure that people have regular access to sufficient high-quality food to lead active and healthy lives.

“This is why we need to support local producers and small family businesses to the fullest. Small producers are very important to FAO: they produce about 56% of global agricultural production and represent a significant part of rural livelihoods. When supported by policies aimed at social protection and rural welfare, they contribute to the development of local economies,” she said.

“Supporting these producers and businesses helps to build resilience in agricultural and combat threats that undermine food security. For this reason, these training workshops for women’s cooperatives in Ordu will contribute to creating a new generation that is healthier and more conscious about food safety,” Selışık added.

Şirin Karadeniz, rector of Bahçeşehir University, elaborated on the importance of training workshops for women in agriculture and of women’s cooperatives. “We organized this event with FAO to increase the quality of agricultural education across our country, to highlight the importance of women’s entrepreneurship and to promote economic development. This expert-taught training course has been specifically designed to reach women cooperatives, to support them in bringing their locally produced agricultural products to the global market, and to help them create global brands. The aim is to enable our women and youth to take a more active role in this important field and to help advance sustainable agriculture,” she said.