Earth Day 2021- Partnering for a Sweeter Harvest For Seasonal Workers (Turkey)


Turkey provides 70 percent of the world’s hazelnuts, most of which are purchased by large manufacturers like Nestle and Nutella. Hazelnut harvesting is difficult and dangerous work, involving long hours on steep slopes in the sun. The work is undertaken by the poorest and most vulnerable populations, including migrants, women, and children, and many are refugees from Syria. Since 2017, WLP Turkey/KEDV has been working with seasonal agricultural workers in the hazelnut harvest to inform them about environmental threats to their employment security and safety, and to improve their working conditions through women’s collective leadership. One ongoing challenge has been to eliminate child labor. Another has been to address the warming waters of the Black Sea, which have triggered extreme weather events that have destroyed roads and bridges, and caused landslides that washed away thousands of tons of hazel harvests. Moreover, the higher ambient temperatures have disrupted the trees’ pollination cycles, reducing their yield. Also impacting the yield is the deterioration of the soil quality, hastened by the now more frequent droughts and erosion, which have also led to pest outbreaks.


Prior to the pandemic, KEDV conducted leadership and capacity-building workshops (using WLP training materials) for women seasonal workers who worked in the hazelnut groves. Their objective was to help the women take on leadership roles in improving the working and living conditions for themselves, their families, and other seasonal workers. A number of the younger workshop participants formed an advocacy group called “The Women Ambassadors of Agriculture.” The Ambassadors now serve as local labor mediators, bringing information about the needs of women and child workers to Turkey’s Ministry of Labor, local governments, and companies—this even amidst the challenges of the pandemic.

Because of enduring tension between the seasonal workers and the local communities, the leadership and communication training for the women workers continues to be of critical importance. Regretfully, implementing trainings and creating opportunities to build solidarity is not practical or safe at this time because of COVID-19. Once in-person gatherings may happen again, KEDV will assist the women seasonal workers in their efforts to resolve the myriad threats they and the local host communities face—including the changing climate, lower harvest yields, and negotiating with the large corporations that purchase the hazelnuts for safer work conditions and better pay.

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