On the outskirts of Eldivan in Central Anatolia, Turkey, a gravel road leads to a set of small, modern buildings skirted by pastureland and covered in solar panels.
It's the home of the Eldivan Women’s Cooperative. Inside, a dozen women are rolling and cutting dough. The makarna (pasta) will be dried and packaged to sell at local markets under the Külçe brand.
Since all ingredients the women use are local, the winter months are spent preparing dry goods, like pasta, tarhana (a traditional dried soup), and manti (ravioli). But in the summer, when the produce is plentiful, they also make seasonal jams, pickled and canned vegetables, dried tomatoes and fruits, and vinegars. All members have land where they grow their produce, which they sell to the cooperative.
The cooperative is a relatively new organization, established in 2016 by local women. Gülendam Çakici was one of the founding members. Her dream was to study law. And even though her father encouraged her studies, she chose not to attend high school.
“I didn’t want to wear my older sister’s school uniform, so I refused to attend high school,” she says mischievously.
Obviously a strong woman, Gülendam is capable of handling anything. She is a certified honey producer and grows organic strawberries in the highlands. At home, she grows a multitude of fruits and vegetables in her garden. When the opportunity came up to participate in a business training session, she signed up immediately.
“I have taken care of my family for many years, and now it was time to build something for myself,” she says.
The objective of this project was to give local women an opportunity to create their own self-sustaining businesses. Only a few women participated at first, but they became the backbone of the cooperative.
Fatma Çorak is one of those women. She suffers from multiple sclerosis, so she didn’t think she would be able to participate. But after testing it out, she quickly got to work. She is highly skilled and managing everything now.
“While working, I forget about my illness,” she says.
While the women completed their training, New World and the Eldivan municipality built a production facility, powered by solar energy. Rooftop-mounted solar panels provide the energy for production. The women dry their fruits, vegetables and pastas in a solar-drying kiln, which was designed and manufactured by the project. A solar hot water collector and solar cooker wash and cook the produce.
To date, the solar panels have produced 6,760 kWh of electricity and saved 3,115 kg of carbon dioxide. The cooperative recently received a Small Carbon Hero Award by Turkey’s Sustainable Production and Consumption Association (SPCA).
New World helped the women legalize their cooperative and create and register the trademark for the Külçe brand. To inspire the women, study trips were organized to other local makers of traditional products. There, they could get information, watch production, and discuss approaches with other businesswomen.
The women have had a fruitful and productive year: two tons of tomato paste, 640 kg traditional noodles, 600 jars of jam, and 130 kg dried tomatoes. The fruits of their labor have earned them nearly US$7,000. Now they are in talks with the municipality to open their own café and sales outlet at the bazaar.
The cooperative has grown from seven to 50 women. Gülendam and Fatma are chair and deputy chair, respectively. They are proud of their work and enjoying their independence. Gülendam is still fond of law though. Her goal is to be the first woman mayor of Eldivan someday.
The Green Economy Village Project in Turkey was part of a New World Program implemented by the local Clean Energy Foundation (TEMEV) as part of a partnership between UNDP and The
Since 2014, New World has continually invested in 44 projects across 19 countries. The program is now ramping up, with The
Karen Cirillo is a member of the UNDP Istanbul Regional Hub team.