القدرة على الصمود
Tuka boils vine leaves to make the traditional Turkish dish, yaprak sarma, in the Turna Women’s Cooperative kitchen. ©FAO.

Turkey | Finding strength in adversity through micro scale agribusinesses

04/11/2021

Tuka is a Syrian micro scale entrepreneur who lives in Izmir, Turkey. Tuka was one of 70 micro scale entrepreneurs who benefited from food production and entrepreneurship skills trainings provided by FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Turkey. Today Tuka is a dedicated member of Turna Women’s Cooperative, an agrifood cooperative supported by FAO in Izmir. This intervention was part of FAO project “Promoting self reliant livelihoods through employment and micro-entrepreneurship” that was carried out from April 2020 to March 2021 and was made possible with funding from the Government of Japan. The project aimed at promoting sustainable livelihood opportunities for Syrians under temporary protection and members of the Turkish host communities in Izmir, Bursa and Şanlıurfa through the provision of skills development training and support for micro scale agri-businesses and cooperatives. 

We spoke with Tuka to learn about her inspiring journey and how the project contributed to addressing some of her challenges and enhanced her resilience.

As a result of the crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic, Tuka survived violence, lost loved ones and the tailoring workshop that she owned in her hometown, Aleppo. In 2017, Tuka and her family sought temporary protection in Turkey. After a long journey, Tuka settled in Izmir to start a new chapter of her life, armed with nothing but her resilience and determination to ensure a better life for her child. At the outset, Tuka and her family found Izmir challenging. Neither she nor her husband were able to make ends meet. As a tailor working from home, Tuka earned USD 1.5 per day and had to borrow money without knowing when she would be able to return it. Additionally, she and her husband also had difficulty in learning the new language.

“It took us some time to understand that market needs are different in Turkey...and realize that we must be open to learning new skills,” Tuka explained.

A glimpse of hope

To improve her financial situation, Tuka enrolled in the traditional food production training course offered by Turna Women’s Cooperative with the support of FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. During the food production training course, Tuka learned how to stuff mussels, prepare sauces, and store, pack and label foods, while following good food safety practices and using equipment and packaging tools provided by FAO. 

“Before receiving this training and joining the cooperative, I had no [professional] food production skills...I also realized that I was not properly storing and preserving food…through the training, I learned how to properly preserve and store food, even without a freezer,” Tuka explained.

Following the food production training course, Tuka participated in entrepreneurship and cooperative model training sessions to improve her knowledge and skills in agrifood business. She also learned about business development and marketing, and about the language and culture of Turkey.

 

A customer buying geographically-indicated products at the Turna Women’s Cooperative. ©FAO.

Empathy beats revenue

After completing the training programme, Tuka became a member of the Turna Women’s Cooperative, where she contributes to the work of the cooperative and earns an income that is five times more than her previous income. She also interacts with other women in Izmir, who have become part of her wider family. 

“I have good friends at the Turna Women’s Cooperative now…and my family are finding my cooking much tastier,” Tuka explained.

 

Tuka and a fellow member of the Turna Women’s Cooperative preparing traditional tomato paste. ©FAO.

 

“We especially appreciate and respect Tuka for her dedication. Despite all she has gone through, she is keen, punctual and delivers her best. She strongly believes in this business. Her story has inspired me to never give up and has helped us remain hopeful during these difficult times of COVID-19,” said Asli Kaya, acting president of the Turna Women’s Cooperative in Izmir.

Tuka continues to work passionately with members of the cooperative to build a strong market brand for the Turna Women’s Cooperative. All of them have benefited from the knowledge and market oriented skills that they have acquired through the joint efforts of FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. In addition to securing an income to lead a dignified life, Tuka is also becoming a role model for many women in her host community and her community of origin. 

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