The Support to Life Association (Hayata Destek Derneği) received a grant from our Turkey Wildfire Relief and Mitigation Fund in 2021 to provide cash and in-kind support to families affected by the wildfires in Adana and Antalya to cover their needs and support their livelihood.
Read below our interview:
You have actively worked in the field during the wildfires that occurred in the summer of 2021 and similarly in the flood disaster in Kastamonu. Can you tell us about your experiences ?
The Support to Life Association’s (STL) mission is to ensure that individuals and communities affected by natural and human-made disasters have access to their basic rights and needs. Therefore, our post-disaster emergency response expertise goes back a long way. Each disaster has different characteristics and requires all relevant institutions to coordinate. In the last 2 to 3 years, when we have been heavily exposed to disasters, our greatest achievements have been in coordination and responsibility-sharing.
It is not possible to predict when disasters will occur, but we can be prepared in advance.
Unfortunately, we have experienced many natural disasters recently, such as the Elazig and Izmir earthquakes, wildfires and floods affecting the Western Black Sea Region. Our cooperation and coordination platform, called the Disaster Platform (Afet Platformu), was shaped by itself. It is not possible to predict when disasters will occur, but we can be prepared in advance. We are more prepared for disasters than before and we act in a more coordinated manner. Donors such as the Support Foundation for Civil Society (STDV) and the Turkey Mozaik Foundation are now well-informed about what steps to follow and which actors to reach after a disaster.
You have implemented the Improvement of the Livelihoods of Citizens Affected by the Wildfires Project with our grant support. Can you tell us about its activities?
Right after the wildfires, we assessed the damages in Adana, Antalya and Mersin regions. The results we reached in our meetings with the mukhtars, provincial directorates of agriculture, professional chambers and local communities was that the households dealing with family-scale agriculture and animal husbandry felt the effects of fires more severely. Some lost their animals, fields were burned, animal shelters were damaged, some people’s pastures were destroyed and so on. Moreover, the average age of the affected population was high, as the young family members generally have migrated to the cities.
We provided 38 households with cash support of up to TRY 4.000 each to help them with their needs in terms of furniture, rent support, house renovation, and improvement of livelihoods.
You provided cash support to families who were financially damaged by the wildfires. How did you determine these households?
To identify the households, we collaborated with all the relevant institutions and CSOs, and they referred 187 families from Adana and Antalya to us. Our emergency aid teams conducted phone interviews to identify the most vulnerable. We collected information about the impact of the fires on the households, their demographic information, income status, vulnerability, individuals such as the elderly, children, women and people with disabilities in the house, and support received from other sources.
All the information was examined in detail by the committee formed among the field teams, and the families were specified. With the grant provided by the STDV and the Turkey Mozaik Foundation, we provided 38 households with cash support of up to TRY 4.000 each to help them with their needs in terms of furniture, rent support, house renovation, and improvement of livelihoods.
The most important lessons learned from the disasters were the disruptions in coordinating the support.
Cash support as a method and the impact of such interventions began to be discussed more in civil society. What can you say about the advantages of the cash support model and its impact?
The most important lessons learned from the disasters were the disruptions in coordinating the support. Excess support during and after a disaster is an obstacle to the effective and efficient use of resources. It also prevents community members affected by the disaster from getting the same support fairly.
Cash support after a structured and effective needs analysis is more effective in meeting the needs of beneficiaries. It offers the opportunity to choose according to their rapidly changing daily needs. In this project, we did not prefer to provide animal feed, seeds, seedlings, fertilisers and similar in-kind aid. This way, we also contributed to the local economy by ensuring the continuity of the local trade. Bringing tons of animal feed or seedlings to the region from outside as in-kind aid will indirectly harm the local producer who has been selling animal feed or seedlings there for years.
We supported people who were not registered with the relevant professional chambers, did not have a farmer’s certificate, and engaged in small-scale and informal income-generating activities.
How has the support you received within the scope of the Turkey Wildfire Relief and Mitigation Fund contributed to your association and your work? Do you have a message for our donors?
Every disaster is unique in terms of its impact, location, and the communities it affects. Therefore, a special dynamic is created for each emergency support operation. The Turkey Wildfire Relief and Mitigation Fund has given us a holistic perspective on effective resource use and livelihoods. Based on the needs assessment, we identified gaps in the support provided and created a needs-oriented intervention framework. This way, we supported people who were not registered with the relevant professional chambers, did not have a farmer’s certificate, and engaged in small-scale and informal income-generating activities. It has been one of our few milestones in the capacity building regarding the cash support program implementation. Unlike other disasters, wildfires cause serious damage to the ecological cycle and human life. We want to thank everyone who participated in the solidarity in humanitarian aid activities for nature and people to grow together and stand up again.
STL is a humanitarian organisation that aims to provide access to the basic rights and needs of disaster-affected communities. Since 2005, STL has been carrying out Emergency Assistance and Response, Refugee Support, Child Protection in Seasonal Agriculture and Capacity Building programs.