18th IFOAM Organiz World Congress
ICC, 13-15 October 2014, İstanbul
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The History of Organic in Turkey and How it is Today

Güneşin Aydemir

When the Movement of Bugday began to take its first steps in 1991, Turkey had a quite a different look compared to the country we know today. There were self-sustainable villages, village schools, natural food, the gardens and fields that were sown with various intact seeds, mills, donkeys, and prosperous areas of biological diversity. Nature supported humankind. All of the things I have mentioned above are still present yet to a lesser degree and showing serious signs of pollution. Things have to change, and the time for change is now.

The start of certified organic farming in Turkey was in the year 1984. Organic production began with regulation based on specific demands of the European companies and private standards. Almost all organic produce was exported. The scope and scale of production has since seen steady growth in line with market demands.

National Regulation on Organic Agriculture was published in 1994. In 1999, the first National Organic Agriculture Symposium was organized and the second one was organized in 2001. These symposia are repeated at intervals and contribute to promotion of research and allow to transfer results obtained under Turkish conditions. Apart from these major steps and some meetings which looked at improving the internal organic market, projects to produce and share technical information were established. The most important development between 1991 and 2002 was the opening of healthy food shops. Organic products started to appear in some supermarket aisles and in some stalls at local markets. The main problem of the organic sector at this period was that consumers had difficulties finding organic products and organic producers were not able to find a place to sell their goods.

The Law of Organic Agriculture was introduced soon after this period. This was the beginning of a busy time with a social movement getting stronger and consumers demanding more organic goods. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs prepared a high-budget project with the support of FAO in 2004. The National Action Plan of Organic Agriculture was prepared within the scope of this project, which was supported by the EU in 2006. The basis of the ecological farmers network in Anatolia was set up with TaTuTa (visiting ecological farms) Programme that was initiated by Bugday in order to share the experiences and knowledge about ecological living. The focus of all this work was to popularize organic production and remove obstacles thus enabling the public to access organic produce.

At this point in time, the idea of establishing ecological public markets was the only solution to creating internal organic markets. Turkey's first 100% Ecological Market was set up in Şisli, Istanbul under the leadership and coordination of the Bugday Association in 2006.

This was a turning point for the domestic organic market. Whilst there were 20 stalls at the beginning, in five years, the number of stalls has gone up to 200. Today, the number of markets has increased to 6 in Istanbul. Various Ecological Markets have been set up in Izmir, Samsun, Antalya, Bursa and Ankara. In order to set up markets, new associations and organizational structures have been established. The model of the first 100% Ecological Market formed the "ecological market" standards under the leadership of the Bugday Association for the last five years hosted.

Now we have entered a "new" period. Small farmers' lives have not necessarily become easier but there are more people who understand them. The return from city to village has begun; there are a few small countryside places where they live. Local seeds are sown, harvested and shared in these fields. Topics like traditional agriculture, permaculture, ecological living is interesting more and more people, the knowledge about self-sufficient agriculture and the harmony with nature is growing significantly on this land and is now exactly on the brink of meeting today's needs.

It is difficult to stand up for the same cause consistently in Turkey, a country of continuously changing agendas. Bugday has been championing this cause with great willingness and enthusiasm for the last 20 years.

We look forward to hosting this great meeting where everybody meets once again to share the traditional country culture, sophistication and knowledge of Anatolia with you. Like in the old days, at the stops on the Silk Road and Spice Road...

Güneşin Aydemir

Bugday Association for Supporting Ecological Living