BUGDAY34: BUILDING MARKETS FOR ORGANIC PRODUCE
Theme: Education or Dialogue for Action
Learning Objective: To improve participant's ability to understand key differences between approaches emphasising education or dialogue and the programmatic implications of those emphases.
The role and importance of information and education for change is often debated and discussed. Do change strategies based on "educating" people produce long-lasting results, or is a process of debate, dialogue and action by those most affected, more effective?
As you review this initiative, we encourage you to think of alternative strategies that could have been pursued. If you were responsible for the strategy of Bugday, what would you have done - what actions would you take? At the end of this experience, we ask you to assess your ideas against the course taken by Bugday.
This project supports the development of a national organic food industry. Through education, and cost-effective ways to stimulate local production and consumption of organically grown and processed foods, it seeks to develop an industry to improve the livelihoods of farmers and the health of consumers.
Over the past 50 years, traditional agricultural practices in Turkey have given way to conventional monoculture using pesticides and synthetic chemicals that many feel have led to increasing environmental and human health problems. While traditional agriculture used organic methods, the idea of organic certification is very new in Turkey. It began in 1995, with a few organic dried fruit projects controlled and traded by several European companies. These initial projects grew quickly in step with growing markets in Europe and provided benefits for foreign producers, traders and consumers. The increased number of organic producers also had a positive impact on the environment where organic farming took place.
However, there was virtually no internal Turkish market for organic produce until 1997 at which time it accounted for less than one percent of agricultural products consumed. For advocates of organic production, this meant that local people were denied access to foods that would improve both environmental conditions and health.
Bugday - an organisation that operates a centre for ecological living - recognized that the growth of organic farming for foreign markets created an opportunity to introduce organic products to Turkey. But this could not happen if organic agriculture was seen only as a business opportunity, and not also as an opportunity to improve the quality of life for Turkish consumers.
To realize both opportunities, Bugday felt consumers would have to be educated about the value of organic foods, and cost-effective ways to stimulate increased local production and consumption would have to be found.
Bugday works primarily with consumers and producers, providing information on the value of organic foods to health and the environment, and the importance of rural life and tradition. It works largely through education to producers, consumers, traders and processors.
Can you think of alternative actions Bugday could take to achieve the same objectives?
From what you understand of Bugday's approach do you think it is primarily focussed on education or dialogue? Why?
Bugday began to promote certified organic products at their centre for ecological living. Before certification was widespread, they sold non-certified traditional village products that had been produced organically. To introduce the concept of certification, they started by selling local organic products processed by export companies. Initially, because of the lack of awareness of the benefits of eating organic produce, there was not enough local support for a Turkey-based processing and packaging operation.
To build local support Bugday organized public meetings, panels at conferences, gatherings of consumers and farmers, and published articles in the national press, promoting what had already become a growing organic movement. They also began to publish their own bi-monthly magazine to provide information on healthier and more environmentally-sustainable products, and also to promote the cultural values of organic agriculture. The magazine now has a readership of over 6 000 people in Turkey and parts of Western Europe.To practically test the growth and strength of the Turkish market, Bugday also set up stores. The first were supported by an environmental NGO, but these quickly gave way to small private businesses. The overall approach was a combination of education and marketing, combining sound business and farming principles, with the promotion of positive cultural, environmental and health values.
Would Bugday's process of building local support look different if it had chosen a different change strategy? If so, how?
Bugday started with few staff and resources, but has grown quickly. Once they felt the market was ready, they opened a store in Istanbul. In 1999, they opened four new stores in different parts of Turkey. By 2000, Bugday was in contact with dozens of people wanting to open their own stores around the country.
In early 2000, three export companies began to package and sell nearly 70 different organic products within Turkey. This has led investors to explore the development of a local organic production and processing industry.
Bugday has become a reference point for organic production in Turkey, and offers advice and consulting on a volunteer basis to new entrepreneurs in the organics business. It supports an emerging environmental movement that synthesizes environmental sustainability with business opportunities, through a network of professionals, volunteers and supporters within and outside the country.By mid-2000, there were over 50 sales points for organic agriculture, and every month three or four new stores were being launched. Catering companies have started to seek the advise of Bugday on organic ingredients, and organic dishes are appearing at festivals, meetings and restaurants. Farmers use Bugday for new ideas, resulting in the regular appearance of new products in the Turkish market.
Developing a market for organic produce requires more than farmers cultivating the supply. The organics industry requires a strong consumer base. Since there is often a premium for organic produce, educating consumers about its benefits is essential. In Turkey, Bugday has used organic agriculture as a facet of a larger strategy to re-value rural life, and the traditions and crafts that make Turkey unique.
By demonstrating the viability of a strong, locally-supported market for organically grown and processed foods, Bugday has shown that environmental sustainability can also sustain people's health and livelihoods. This has paved the way in Turkey for a deeper look at issues like fair trade and socially-responsible business. With farmers, producers and consumers onboard, Bugday has the support to introduce further environmental innovations in Turkey.
Re-read the last paragraph
Bugday has been successful in achieving many of its objectives. Please analyse the approach taken so far, Bugday's plans to "take a deeper look at issues like fair trade and socially responsible business", and its ongoing objective of supporting traditional rural culture.
Do you think it should maintain its present strategy or adopt a different one? Why, and if you think the strategy should change, what changes would you suggest?
Considering the Theme and Learning Objectives for this experience please list one or more lessons you think are important for your own work. Please list these on the chart in "Drawing Your Own Conclusions" p89.
Ashoka (February 2001). The Turning Tide: The People, Principles, and Strategies Creating Ecological Balance. Environmental Innovations Workshop and Conference. http://www.ashoka.org/global/ei_book.cfm .
For further information contact:
Kalcin Sokak, Kitapci Han no:15 kat:2
Eminonu Istanbul, Turkey
1700 North Moore St
Suite 2000 Arlington, VA 22209-1939