FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Future generations receive guidance to explore the steppes

Steppes are one of the ecologically most important and vulnerable ecosystems in Turkey, covering almost 40 percent, of the country’s territory. The integrity of these areas is under threat and pressure by habitat loss and degradation, overharvest, climate change, and other factors. Understanding its significance and increasing public awareness are crucial to help conserve biodiversity.

In this context, FAO organized a training for trainers under a project funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), to introduce the ‘steppe training kit’, their application in a training process, and receive feedback on the materials. The participating 20 teachers, project partners, and FAO’s specialists were connected on 12 May virtually due to the COVID-19 situation.

The training kit contains resource documents to increase the knowledge, interest and awareness of students regarding the steppe ecosystem of Şanlıurfa. Through these resources children can discover the environment and its value by learning about the steppe ecosystem from different perspectives including as history, biology, geography, sustainability, and climate change.

“With this project, steppes became the priority of all of us. Now, we look life by opening our senses more broadly,” said FAO project coordinator Nihan Yenilmez Arpa at the beginning of the training.

Teachers and students are a driving force in build support to effective conservation of the steppe ecosystems and increase awareness of other actors (experts, decision-makers). Therefore training and education activities involve 10 selected schools in the project pilot sites in Şanlıurfa who can trial the steppe training kit first.

Kenan Demiroğlu, Director of the Şanlıurfa National Education Departmental Manager, found the project very successful in terms of recognition of steppes and awareness raising, the latter he called “very valuable.”

The training programme that participants learned, puts a strong emphasis on education through art. Schools can, and some have already done, among others, develop wall paintings under a professional guidance of an artist, establishment of nature/environment corners in schools, do theatre performance and competitions between schools, nature games, and kite festival – all of these reflecting the importance of the untouched steppes.

In addition, an ongoing student competition in Şanlıurfa entitled ‘Poems and pictures’ is drawing attention to the plants and animal biodiversity, and the invisible and unknown natural and cultural values of the steppes.

Similar awareness raising activities under the training programme will continue in the coming months.

The FAO project is implemented by the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks, General Directorate of Plant Production, and General Directorate of Forestry, with financial support from GEF, in three distinct grasslands – Kızılkuyu Wildlife Development Area, Tek Tek Mountains National Park, and the Karacadağ Steppes in Sanliurfa. It aims to improve the conservation of Turkey’s steppe ecosystems through effective protected area management and mainstreaming steppe biodiversity conservation into production landscapes.

14 May 2020, Ankara, Turkey