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Enhancing resilience for Syrian refugees and host communities in Turkey


A sustainable livelihood oriented approach

25/02/2019 - 

"We selected training topics like greenhouse, olive, pistachio, irrigation and cotton production, keeping in mind employment possibilities. Half of all cotton production takes place in our province and it is in this sector where we most need workers." Adnan Yetkin, a project coordinator

Refugee populations have limited livelihood potential with no access to formal job opportunities, a situation that can lead to instability and social tension between host and refugee communities. One consequence of the seven-year Syrian crisis is over 4.8 million refugees have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt posing a significant burden on host communities. In this context, in 2017 FAO implemented the ‘Enhanced Resilience through Increased Economic Opportunities for Syrian Refugees and Host Communities’ project in five provinces of southern Turkey.

“I escaped to Turkey from Aleppo with my family. I am now a harvest operator in agriculture,” says Muhammed Haciahmed, a project beneficiary. The FAO project targeted and successfully provided training for Syrian refugees together with local Turkish community members. By partnering with UNHCR the project had the added value of registering project participants and linking vulnerable individuals—often including women and youth—to services. Given that the agriculture sector engages more women than any other, the project promoted the involvement of women, who were 45 percent of total project beneficiaries.

“Thanks to this project, we learned how to better harvest grapes and pepper,” says Sabri Aslan, from Islahiye in Gaziantep, a female participant, “We also learned olive cultivation, irrigation, and fertilization techniques. We want it to continue so everyone can learn and do agriculture right.” Prior to the start of the FAO-UNHCR project, labor constraints were negatively affecting growth in the sector which was unable to produce at full capacity due to the lack of skilled workers. FAO worked with implementing partners to enhance capacities in the delivery of technical training courses as well as in matching labor demand and supply by partnering with the Turkish private sector. “We selected training topics like greenhouse, olive, pistachio, irrigation and cotton production, keeping in mind employment possibilities.

Half of all cotton production takes place in our province and it is in this sector where we most need workers,” says Adnan Yetkin, a project coordinator. Initially, some farms and companies were reluctant to take Syrian refugees on-board as workers and there was some tension between refugees and host community members. But the project has been changing approaches and attitudes. During FAO’s monitoring missions, several farm owners or representatives of food processing companies reported their satisfaction with the project trainees and said they would be willing to hire the refugee workers in the future.

Given the protracted Syrian Crisis, it is foreseen that Syrian refugee in Turkey will remain in the country for at least the next few years, requiring a stronger emphasis on the transition from humanitarian response to a sustainable livelihood-oriented approach. FAO plays a key role in advocating for this approach and for the inclusion of livelihood strategies, particularly in the agriculture sector, that provides substantial potential to accommodate the new labor force. “I knew only one type of apple back in Syria, but I learned other types during the training courses,” says Muhammed, “Our level of knowledge increased here. We are not thinking of going back to Syria now. We want to stay here.” 

Resource partner: UNHCR

SDG: 2, 8, 10

Regional Initiative: RIN2 - Small-scale agriculture for inclusive development in the Near East and North Africa

Photo: Learning new cultivation techniques in Turkey ©FAO