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Syrian refugees harvest greenhouse vegetables in Turkey

For nearly as long as the civil war in Syria has been ongoing, 36-year-old Sena Hamad has been living in a refugee camp with her three daughters and husband on the outskirts of the city of Osmaniye in southern Turkey.

Today, she is among the first group of 25 trainees to have been selected for training on greenhouse vegetable production.

In all, the FAO pilot project will train 150 refugees to grow vegetables in a newly established greenhouse next to the refugee camp, which hosts 15,000 people. After a “train the trainers” event was conducted, on-the-job training of refugees on greenhouse vegetable production has been held since late September. Trainees are gaining the new talents they need for skilled jobs in the agriculture sector, and the vegetable yield is being distributed free of charge throughout the refugee camp to improve nutrition and food security.

Sena Hamad, 36, is among the first group of trainees at the greenhouse in Osmaniye. Photo: FAO/Roar Sorensen

“I have received vegetables from this project that we have consumed in my family and shared with our neighbors in the camp,” Hamad said. “I’m very happy with this training; it’s encouraging because I’ve learned about very different and new techniques related to greenhouse management, such as pruning of greenhouse vegetables. I used to engage with agricultural production back home, but greenhouse is so new for me. One day in the future, I hope I can manage my very own greenhouse in Syria.”

Within the 8,000-square-meter greenhouse, six trainers are supervised by Çukurova University professors Yıldız Daşgan and Nafi Baytorun, who are delivering on-the-job training for refugees on growing of eggplants, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. Although seedlings were planted in late September, to date around 2.2 tonnes of cucumber, 180 kg of eggplant and 540 kg of pepper have been harvested and distributed. The tomatoes are busy getting red and ready for the first harvest.

“FAO has never done this kind of project in Turkey before, and with such concrete results,” said Birim Mor, FAO expert. “The majority of the trainees are women who say that this project gives them a valuable opportunity to learn new things, socialize, and boost their self-confidence.”

The greenhouse being used for this project is more environmentally friendly than most, Mor added.

“For the greenhouse heating, compressed natural gas is being used,” Mor said, “which is much greener technology and causes less carbon footprint compared to conventional greenhouses in which coal is used as fuel.”

Hafiz Muminjanov, FAO plant production and protection officer, inspecting crops together with trainers in the greenhouse in Osmaniye. Photo: FAO/Roar Sorensen

Rabia Acuz, 40, joined the training in the second batch of trainees. She’s been living in the camp since 2012 with her husband and two boys, doing temporary work when she can find it.

“I am planning to use the distributed vegetables as our own products in daily life when cooking and to prepare pickles,” she said. “I really like the trainers here; we get on so well and they are so helpful. Not only with the greenhouse production, but we talk about so many other issues as well.”

The Government of Turkey and İş-Kur, the Turkish Employment Agency, have been collaborating with FAO to create decent job opportunities for refugees in addition to strengthening the Turkish economy. Upon completion of their training, refugees will be awarded certifications from İş-Kur that show their new expertise in greenhouse vegetable production, boosting their employment opportunities.

The project is implemented in partnership with the Oilseed Crop Research Institute based in Osmaniye. In the future, the project can be upscaled and serve as a refugee camp management model in Turkey – and even widened to target refugees living elsewhere in Turkey.

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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