In ancient times, the hot sun and the wind of the Middle East have been drying fruits and vegetables in a natural way by enabling food preservation for the communities over longer periods.
As this ancient way of processing fruits and vegetables is still popular, today’s scientific and technological advancements carry it one step further by the use of the sun at its full power via solar panels. Imagine a system, where solar panels produce the energy needed for running a food drying facility by bringing migrant and host communities together in a highly migrated and sunny region: Southeastern Turkey.
With the support of the Government of Japan and in cooperation with local authorities, IOM Turkey initiated a project which enables migrant and host community members to earn additional income by working together in a sustainable way through solar-dryer facilities by advancing an ancient tradition. Within the scope of the project, nine facilities have been built in seven provinces. IOM also equipped women from migrant and host communities with lifelong vocational skills through training sessions to be able to work at the facilities.
Meral Secer is a representative of the women cooperative in Mersin province, and she believes that the solar-drying facility is not only good for the environment, but it also encourages women to produce and earn income independently. As agricultural work is one of the major sources of income for vulnerable communities in the region, the facilities offer women a centre in which they can dry their crops and sell all year round. In this way, women can sustain their income regardless of the agricultural season.
Meral also indicates that women can work together and foster the economy by establishing their brands and selling their products nationally and internationally. Thus, the project doesn’t only support the economic empowerment for individuals but it sets an example for the whole society. She also mentions that it has been a long time since the Syrian crisis began. Migrant and host communities are living together in Turkey for years, and there needs to be solidarity among them. “The sense of solidarity is only possible when members of communities listen to each other, understand each other and share the joy of producing together. In this way, women from both communities can produce and earn together in unity. In the end, regardless of their backgrounds, they have a stronger commonality which unites them, and that is being a woman.” Meral Secer adds.