Earth Association (Yeryüzü Derneği), established in 2009, is working in the areas of sustainable life, organic agriculture, green energy, climate change, urban agriculture and rural development. The association received a grant and capacity-building support from our Institutional Fund to expand its external outreach by preparing and implementing a communications plan by employing a communications coordinator.
Read below our interview:
The Union of Turkish Chambers of Agriculture stated that Turkey will face a major food crisis in 2022. Can you tell us about the causes and effects of this crisis?
We agree with this prediction. Why does Turkey import wheat and hay? Why are lentils, livestock, and chickpeas imported? Are these not indicators that there is an agricultural crisis in our country? This crisis will deepen and grow. There is tremendous pressure on small-scale farmers. Farmers are forced to sell their land and migrate to the cities, leaving agriculture to corporations. Farmers are indebted as input costs increase due to exchange rates. On top of that, natural disasters due to climate change are wiping out crops. By looking at these indicators, we, as Earth Association, do not only criticise but also offer solutions and implement good examples.
To reverse migration, we think that land and interest-free business loans should be given to the people who return to their villages. We think that instead of agricultural production methods that depend on fossil fuels, we should go back to traditional production, where fertiliser is produced in the village, non-toxic agriculture is prominent and input costs are reduced.
To manage the whole production process, we think it is vital to implement a continuous training programme in collaboration with civil society. Local markets should be established for products produced in villages, especially in the nearest towns and cities. We are in favour of a sales network with no intermediaries where local administrations take responsibility for the transport and storage of these products and support the villagers.
Farmers are forced to sell their land and migrate to the cities, leaving agriculture to corporations.
We have often heard the concepts of ecological and sustainable textiles. Can you tell us about these two concepts?
The fashion industry is based on two pillars: speed and consumption, neither of which is sustainable. The amount of textiles produced every year on a global scale and thrown away without anyone wearing them has reached incredible proportions. This mentality has also been carried to homes, and tonnes of clothes that could be worn again with minor repairs have become garbage.
New trends have emerged among fashion designers, such as slow fashion, ahimsa fashion or sustainable fashion. Slow fashion emphasises repair, not consumption. It praises natural colourants instead of chemical dyes. The world does not have enough resources to clothe such a large population, which is only possible with child labour and inhumane working conditions. As Earth Association, we organise Repair Cafes and teach the participants how to sew, fold trousers, and produce new clothes from the ones that are no longer worn.
Which areas have you focused on with the grant and capacity development support you received from our Institutional Fund? Can you tell us about the work you have done in this context?
With the support we have previously received from the Support Foundation for Civil Solidarity, we organised our archives, achieved significant progress in volunteer communication, and conducted projects such as food workshops, Seed Exchange Festival and Urban Gardens. We increased the number of our volunteers by 40%, organised more than ten volunteer meetings, distributed tens of thousands of seedlings and seeds at the festival, and over 400 participants and 50 producers attended the food workshop.
However, we needed to publicise these on social media and reach wider audiences. The support we received from the Support Foundation for Civil Society and Turkey Mozaik Foundation gave us a great impetus in this regard. The difference in the way we present our content and identifying and working on our weaknesses through a SWOT analysis seems to have solved our visibility problem.
The world does not have enough resources to clothe such a large population, which is only possible with child labour and inhumane working conditions.
How has the grant support contributed to your association and your work? Do you have a message for our donors who support the fund?
This grant support enabled us to understand the characteristics of our platform-based target audience. We saw that our target audience on Instagram is more focused on ecological practices. On Facebook, they are interested in ecology due to their previous practices before migrating to cities, and on Twitter, they support ecology-based struggles. So, we tried to shape our work according to these target audiences.
While our Urban Gardens project is defined as a change in the daily lives of our audience on Instagram, it fulfils a longing for the old days for our Facebook audience. For our audience on Twitter, our project means realising the practice of ecological life in the city and turning the struggle for ecology into a rights-based struggle. In this context, your grant support has enabled our organisation to use its communication strategies more effectively.
Can you tell us about the priorities of the Earth Association for 2022?
As last year, we will flood Istanbul with vegetables with our Urban Gardens project twice in spring and autumn. We will organise gardening training for volunteers and provide them with basic gardening skills. Our eco-village has been successfully continuing in Pamukova, Sakarya for nine years, and now, we will open our second eco-village in the Aegean region under the name Egeköy.
We aim to start an exhibition in 2022 to document rights violations caused by thermal power plants. We will continue our efforts to include universities and primary schools in the food communities supported by our cooperative. In 2022, we will continue our regional food workshops in Vize and Yalova. Also, we plan to hold the now traditional Cooperatives and Food Communities Workshop at Beykoz University.
In 2022, we plan to open a branch office in Muğla and İzmir. We will revive our harvest time project, which we have suspended. In collaboration with the Kadıköy Municipality, we will continue the monthly upcycling festivals we hold at the Ecological Life Centre.
About Earth Association
Earth Association is an ecologist movement working in the fields of climate change, ecological movements, community-based ecological solutions, and rural sustainability. Earth Association aims to create a sustainable, ecologic, and convivial society through educational workshops. The association is known for its Urban Gardens Project all around Istanbul.