Development of urban agriculture projects : A tool to foster livelihoods and social inclusion of Syrian refugees in Turkey

Desarrollo de proyectos de agricultura urbana:  una herramienta para fomentar los medios de vida y la inclusión social de los refugiados sirios en Turquía

Escrito en inglés (original in English below) por Julia Buzaud (Sciences Po Lille 2014) y Lauranne Callet (GLM2014)

Traduzido al español por Julia Buzaud, revisado por Luc Aldon (GLM2014)

Mientras que la crisis de los refugiados sirios se encuentra ya en su quinto año, la situación prolongada tiene un impacto creciente más allá de los países vecinos. Se espera que la inestabilidad en la región persista y el consiguiente desplazamiento continúe dentro de Siria y a través de la frontera con Turquía. Dada la situación en el terreno, la amplitud de los flujos de refugiados de Siria o Iraq en 2016 es todavía incierta.” – 

Plan Regional para los Refugiados y la Resilencia 2016-2017 en repuesta a la crisis Siria [1].

Con más de dos millones de Sirios en su territorio, Turquía fue clasificado en 2015 como el país que ha acogido el mayor número refugiados en el mundo. También es el país que más ha recibido refugiados entre los país fronterizos con Siria. A pesar de la imagen que se tiene de los refugiados albergados en los campos, la mayoría de los sirios en Turquía viven en las ciudades. Desde llegada de los refugiados, las municipalidades turcas se convirtieron en actores claves para acoger a los refugiados y gestionar los impactos inducidos por la crisis en las ciudades (como la falta de infraestructuras adecuada para responder a nuevos flujos, la discrepancia de los servicios locales, la inflación, el desempleo… ).

Aunque los sirios en Turquía son denominados “refugiados”, no son legalmente reconocidos como tal[1]. En realidad se encuentran  bajo una  protección temporal, un estatuto legal  asegurándoles el derecho a quedarse en Turquía momentáneamente[2]. Este estatuto les garantiza también un acceso gratuito a los servicios públicos de educación y de salud. Además, la posibilidad de solicitar un permiso de trabajo fue recientemente concedido a los Sirios[3]. A pesar de este exhaustivo estatuto legal, los refugiados más vulnerables todavía encuentran muchas dificultades como el desempleo o la explotación laboral, llevándolos a enfrentar situaciones de inseguridad alimentaria o a encontrarse a menudo en situación de exclusión social.

Mientras, el conflicto en Siria se agrava, se esperan nuevas oleadas de refugiados  en Turquía: en la ciudad de Alepo, por si sola, 2,8 millones personas necesitan asistencia humanitaria. La ciudad, ubicada cerca de la frontera turca, espera futuros combates [4] que tendrán por consecuencia más refugiados adicionales a los ya 20,000 Sirios   que esperan en la frontera con  Turquía.

Mientras que por otro lado, los recursos correspondientes a la ayuda humanitaria son ya insuficientes. En este contexto, muchos actores involucrados en dar respuesta a las necesidades de los refugiados sirios en Turquía cambiaron gradualmente su enfoque humanitario a uno de integración, con especial atención a los medios de vida, sobre como fomentar la auto-suficiencia de los refugiados, a lo largo de un desarrollo conjunto con las comunidades turcas que han acogido la mayor parte de los refugiados. Esto hace que la necesidad de proyectos innovadores dirigidos hacia un desarrollo urbano tanto sostenible como resiliente sea más importante que nunca.

En otros partes del mundo y en diferentes contextos, varios proyectos de agricultura urbana surgieron para responder a retos en relación a los  medios de vida, a la seguridad alimentaria o a la inclusión social. Igualmente, el desarrollo de proyectos de agricultura urbana tendría el potencial para fomentar los medios de vida y la inclusión social de los refugiados sirios en Turquía.

Proyectos de agricultura urbana como una herramienta para fomentar la inclusión social

Agricultura surgiendo en las ciudades

800 millones de personas en el mundo practican la agricultura urbana, estima la FAO (Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Alimentación y la Agricultura).  La agricultura urbana y peri-urbana puede definirse como el cultivo de plantas y la cría de animales en el interior y en los alrededores de las ciudades[5]. Esta puede tomar varias formas: micro-jardines, techos verdes, invernaderos comunitarios, pequeñas ganaderías… y se encuentra también hoy en la intersección de innovaciones sociales y técnicas, como por ejemplo las granjas de acuapónicos[6].

Los programas de agricultura urbana han demostrado producir resultados significativos en términos de medios de vida y de seguridad alimentaria. Según la FAO, las parcelas de jardines pueden ser 15 veces más productivas que las explotaciones rurales[3], debido a la concentración  de mano de obra. Los hogares urbanos pobres gastan la mayor parte de sus ingresos en alimentación – entre  el 60% y el  80% de acuerdo con la FAO-. El acceso a alimentos  baratos, orgánicos y nutritivos gracias a la autogestión alimentaria, hace de estos hogares menos vulnerables a fluctuaciones de precios en la canasta alimenticia y puede aumentar su seguridad alimentaria de manera cualitativa y cuantitativa.

Urban agriculture program of the municipality of Barcelona, targeting social inclusion of elderly people. Barcelona, Spain. 2016
Programa de agricultura urbana del ayuntamiento de Barcelona, para la inclusión social de personas mayores. Barcelona-España 2016 (c) Julia Buzaud

Los programas de agricultura urbana también pueden producir empleos que van más allá de la mera actividad agrícola. Por ejemplo, en Argentina y Brasil, algunos proyectos de agricultura urbana han servido para crear una larga variedad de empleos en marketing y sistemas de distribución. En La Habana, donde la agricultura urbana es ampliamente practicada, el sector proporciona hasta 117,000 empleos e ingresos para 150,000 familias. Sin embargo, el sector de la alimentación orgánica, local y fresca es todavía un mercado limitado en muchas ciudades, a pesar de una demanda creciente de tales productos. Los programas de agricultura urbana, operando en un nicho de mercado, se prevén como portadores de un potencial económico interesante con alto valor añadido.

Más allá del potencial de seguridad alimentaria y medios de vida, los proyectos de agricultura urbana pueden también apuntar hacia otros sectores: como la sensibilización a la ecología, actividades psicosociales con niños, jóvenes o poblaciones excluidas…

Agricultura urbana y inclusión social

 La inclusión social mejora los procesos de participación de las comunidades excluidas y las hace participe de la sociedad[1].

La exclusión en la sociedad induce generalmente a situaciones de pobreza ya que  las comunidades marginadas se mantienen alejadas de una gran variedad de procesos y oportunidades. La lucha contra la pobreza entre las poblaciones vulnerables, necesita en primer lugar la reducción de estas barreras excluyentes para permitirles un acceso al sistema social y al mercado.

Algunos proyectos que combinan la agricultura urbana con los objetivos de inclusión social demostraron resultados satisfactorios. En Colombia por ejemplo, el programa “Bogotá sin Indiferencia”, un programa de comedores comunitarios, extendió los beneficios de la jardinería a los excombatientes, las personas discapacitadas o las personas desplazadas[2].

Los desplazados de las zonas rurales por el conflicto se beneficiaron del programa de agricultura urbana. Las personas que participaron en estas  actividades pudieron reencontrarse con los oficios agrícolas que ejercían antes de su desplazamiento y se sintieron socialmente valoradas al poner en práctica sus conocimientos.  Practicar de nuevo una actividad, ser capaz de intercambiar bienes producidos o compartir experticia les permitió, en último término a los más vulnerables, crear relaciones sociales y estar y sentirse integrados de nuevo en la sociedad.

Community of neighbors gardening in Istanbul, Turkey. 2015
Comunidad de vecinos cuidando un huerto en Estambul – Turquía (c) Julia Buzaud

Por otra parte, los proyectos de agricultura urbana proporcionan medios eficaces para fomentar medios de vida para mujeres cabezas de familia. Igualmente, en situaciones de migración, pueden ser  una manera práctica para reunir comunidades desplazadas y  trabajar por un objetivo común y positivo.

En Turquía, la agricultura urbana se encuentra poco desarrollada. Sin embargo, las municipalidades han sido los actores más afectados de forma directa por la llegada masiva de refugiados sirios. La agricultura urbana representa una herramienta potencialmente valiosa para transformar la presencia de los refugiados sirios en oportunidades locales de desarrollo.

Sirios en Turquía : características de una presencia masiva de refugiados en las ciudades

 Situación actual de los refugiados sirios en Turquía

Turquía acoge actualmente 2,715,789 refugiados sirios en su suelo[1], sobre un total de 78 millones de ciudadanos turcos[2]. La mayor parte  de ellos vive en zonas urbanas, y solo aproximadamente 10% de refugiados viven en los 25 campos localizados en la región de Anatolia del Sureste[3] del país.  La ONU estima que 2,45 millones de sirios vivirán en comunidades de acogida en Turquía en 2016[4]. Se prevé que 30% de dichos refugiados  encontrará problemas relacionados con su seguridad alimentaria.

Al mismo tiempo que Turquía impide de manera creciente la migración ilegal hacia Europa, los actores internacionales cambian sus acciones de asistencia a los Sirios desplazados o afectados para el conflicto, hacia un enfoque para el desarrollo y la resiliencia, incluyendo tanto las necesidades de los refugiados sirios que las de las comunidades receptoras.

Helen Clark, la administradora del PNUD (Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo),  trabajó de manera insistente para lograr la implementación urgente de un enfoque sobre la resilencia en las programas de los actores del desarrollo:

“El Plan Regional para los Refugiados y la Resilencia (3RP) y el Plan de Respuesta Humanitaria para Siria (HRP) elaboraron un esquema de ayuda para los socios. No son planes convencionales. Los enfoques convencionales de “Alivio inmediato,  y desarrollo luego” no funcionan en la respuesta a la crisis siria ni para similares crisis prolongadas. Los refugiados, las comunidades de acogida y las personas internamente desplazadas necesitan medios de vida. Ellos necesitan servicios básicos, como la salud, la educación, el acceso al agua, el saneamiento, la electricidad y la recolección de basura. Y también necesitan esperanza para un futuro mejor.”[5]

Además, se anuncian entre tres a seis billones de euros financiados por el Plan de Acción Conjunto UE-Turquía. Su objetivo es fomentar el desarrollo local y la inclusión social de los refugiados. Un total de 140 millones de euros serán dedicados a las programas de educación, 130 millones a la resilencia(¿) y los programas de desarrollo local, y 55 millones euros a los programas de salud en Turquía[6].

El rol de las municipalidades en la crisis de refugiados sirios en Turquía

 Desde el comienzo de la crisis siria, algunos municipalidades de Turquía respondieron presentes y proporcionaron ayuda a los refugiados sirios localizados en sus territorio de una manera ad hoc.

Las municipalidades son socios privilegiados para los ONG ya que pueden proporcionar informaciones sobre la población refugiada en la ciudad y gestionar la infraestructura para los más desfavorecidos. Estas tienen entonces,  una posición favorable en la coordinación de los diferentes actores involucrados, en la entrega de ayuda y la cohesión entre las poblaciones turcas y sirias.

Sin embargo, hasta ahora, las municipalidades han estado sub-representadas  en la coordinación y el proceso de financiación de la repuesta a la crisis de refugiados sirios.  Por un lado, las municipalidades no han sido representadas en el marco de referencia legal oficial de asistencia humanitaria y por otro parte, han recibido un apoyo financiero muy limitado a nivel nacional. Solo algunos proyectos de las agencias de la ONU incluyeron a las municipalidades en sus repuestas. Sin embargo, algunas dinámicas de cooperación informal existen entre las municipalidades y las ONGs a diferentes niveles.

Además, teniendo en cuenta la falta de fondos, las municipalidades tienen que desarrollar maneras innovadoras de autofinanciación para dar respuesta a las necesidades de los refugiados sirios en colaboración con las instituciones públicas, la sociedad civil, los donantes internacionales, las ONG y las ONGI.

Desarrollo de programas de agricultura urbana en Turquía

Como  en los ejemplos nombrados anteriormente en Rosario y La Habana, los proyectos de agricultura urbana conducen al desarrollo de herramientas eficaces para responder a la inseguridad alimentaria y mejorar las condiciones de vida. Además, la primera exigencia para proyectos de agricultura urbana a la escala urbana es fomentar un acceso legal al suelo : una de las primeras exigencias de la municipalidad de Rosario en Argentina fue promulgar una ordenanza municipal, cediendo terrenos públicos e invitando a los propietarios privados a ceder la utilización de sus terrenos vacantes durante dos años, a cambio de una exención de impuestos[7].

Urban agriculture program of the municipality of Barcelona, targeting social inclusion of elderly people. Barcelona, Spain. 2016
Huertos en Estambul, Turquía (c) Julia Buzaud

Una alternativa es asegurar acceso al suelo público para la agricultura urbana. Este tipo de proyectos necesitan una primera inversión (para la restauración del suelo, la compra de herramientas, la construcción de invernaderos, etc.) pero después pueden funcionar de manera autosuficiente.  Además, los proyectos de agricultura necesitan ser diseñados a mediano o largo plazo; y las municipalidades son de por sí actores de largo plazo, a diferencia de las ONG.

Cabe destacar que 25% de la población siria era empleada del sector agrícola antes del conflicto[8]. Los pequeños agricultores fueron gravemente impactados por la sequía de 2006 en Siria. 800,000 personas perdieron sus medios de vida y huyeron a las ciudades más grandes para encontrar trabajo[9]. Estos sirios, que se encontraban en situación vulnerables antes el conflicto, se convirtieron también en los refugiados más vulnerables y los más propensos a la inseguridad alimentaria. Sin embargo, son también los que tienen más habilidades para el desarrollo de la agricultura.

Esto proporcionaría de alguna manera los medios de vida a las personas excluidas de la sociedad, mejorando así la inclusión social y el cambio de una economía informal a una economía formal. Involucrando una población frente a circunstancias adversas y lucha diaria, la agricultura urbana puede ser un punto de entrada para desarrollar un enfoque integrador y mejorar la calidad de otros servicios. (agua y higiene, nutrición, gestión de residuos, etc.)

Este ejemplo especifico, descrito a lo largo de estas líneas, es en cierta
medida similar en otros países alrededor del Mar Mediterráneo. Entre los 
países mediterráneos, que enfrentan problemas similares como lo son el 
drama de los  refugiados y la crisis económica, un intercambio mayor de
prácticas en proyectos de agricultura urbana debería ser uno de los 
prioritarios de los actores involucrados.


Development of urban agriculture projects : A tool to foster livelihoods and social inclusion of Syrian refugees in Turkey

“As the Syrian refugee crisis enters into its fifth year, the protracted situation is having a growing impact beyond its neighbouring countries. Instability in the region is expected to persist, and consequent displacement, inside Syria and across the border into Turkey, will continue. Given the fluid situation on the ground, it is uncertain what the scale of refugee flows from Syria or Iraq in 2016 will be.” – 

The Refugee Resilience Regional Plan 2016-2017 In response to the Syria Crisis Turkey[1] states as above the current refugee crisis situation in Turkey.

With more than two million Syrians on its territory, Turkey was ranked in 2015 as the country welcoming the highest number of refugees in the world. It is the biggest host of Syria’s neighbouring countries. Away from the imaginary of camps, Syrians in Turkey live in urban settings in their great majority. Throughout their arrival, Turkish municipalities became the frontline actors in welcoming refugees and in dealing with the induced impacts in cities (such as strain on infrastructures, discrepancy of local services, inflation, unemployment …).

Although Syrians in Turkey are called refugees, they are nevertheless legally not recognised as such[2]but are under temporary protection, a legal status ensuring them the right to stay in Turkey for a temporary duration[3]. It also grants them free of charge access to health and education public services. Moreover, the possibility to apply for work permit was recently granted to Syrians[4] and added to this set of rights and duties. Despite this comprehensive legal status, the most vulnerable refugees still encounter a vast array of difficulties to secure livelihoods such as unemployment or work exploitation which can lead to food insecurity and are often in a situation of social exclusion.

Meanwhile, the conflict taking place in Syria keeps on deepening and new Syrians refugee waves of arrival are awaited in Turkey : 2,8 millions people are estimated to be in need of humanitarian aid in the only city of Aleppo. The metropolis, close to the Turkish border, expects future fights to increase[5], summing-up tothe 20,000 Syrians already waiting at the border gate to enter Turkey.

Whereas on the other hand, the humanitarian needs are under-funded. In this context, many of the actors involved in responding to the needs of Syrian refugees in Turkey gradually switched from a humanitarian approach to an integration one, with a specific focus on the topic of livelihoods, in order to foster refugees’ means of self-sufficiency, along with joint development of affected Turkish host communities. The need for development of innovative projects targeting both sustainable and resilient urban development along with social cohesion of refugees with host communities is thus greater than ever.

In other parts of the world and in different contexts, various projects of urban agriculture emerged to answer similar challenges of livelihoods, food security and social inclusion. Likewise, development of urban agriculture projects has the potential to foster livelihoods and social inclusion of Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Rationale of Urban Agriculture Projects as a Tool to Foster Social Inclusion

Agriculture emerging in Cities …

800 million people around the world practice urban agriculture, estimates the FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organisation. Urban and peri-urban agriculture can be defined as the growing of plants and the raising of animals within the boundaries of the cities. It can thus take a lot of different forms: micro-gardens, roof-gardens, community greenhouses, small livestock farming… and are also today at the intersection of social and technical innovations, for instance the aquaponics farms.[6]

Urban agriculture programs are proven to produce significant results in terms of livelihoods and food security. According to the FAO, garden plots can be up to 15 times more productive than rural holdings[7], due to the higher labour input. The urban poor households spend a major part of their incomes on food expenses – according to the FAO, from 60% to 80% of their revenues[8] . Having  access to cheap, organic and nutritious alimentary items by producing one’s own food makes these households less vulnerable to food prices fluctuations and can increase their food security in a quantitative and qualitative way.

Urban agriculture program of the municipality of Barcelona, targeting social inclusion of elderly people. Barcelona, Spain. 2016
Urban agriculture program of the municipality of Barcelona, targeting social inclusion of elderly people. Barcelona-Spain 2016 (c) Julia Buzaud

Urban agriculture programs can also create employment beyond the sole activity of farming. As a matter of example, in Argentina and Brazil, some urban agriculture projects created a wide variety of jobs as marketing and distribution systems. In La Havana, where urban agriculture is widely spread, this sector provides up to 117,000 jobs and revenues for 150,000 low-income families. Moreover fresh, local and organic food is still a limited market in the cities, despite the growing demand for such products. Urban agriculture programs, by operating in a niche-market, are forecasted as embodying an interesting economic potential with high added-value.

Beyond food security and livelihoods potential, urban gardening projects can also target other domains: raising awareness on ecology, psychosocial activities with children, youth or excluded populations.

… urban agriculture and social inclusion

Social inclusion encompasses the various processes of improving the terms for individuals and groups to take part in the society[9]. Exclusion in society often induces poverty as marginalized groups are kept away from a wide range of processes and opportunities. Tackling poverty among excluded vulnerable populations, which refugees are part of, requires reducing first these barriers to enable them to access the social system and economic markets.

In the past, several projects crossing urban agriculture and social cohesion targets were proven to produce fertile results. In Colombia, for instance the community gardening program of “Bogota without Indifference” extended the benefits of vegetable gardening to former combatants, disabled or displaced population[10]. Population displaced from rural areas by the war specifically took advantage from urban agriculture  programs.

Individuals involved in farming activities before their displacement could retrieve habits from their past occupation and feel socially valued to put again into practice their knowledge. Being involved again in an activity, being able to exchange produced goods or share knowhow also enable the most vulnerable to create social ties and to get integrated into social networks.

Community of neighbors gardening in Istanbul, Turkey. 2015
Community of neighbours gardening in Istanbul -Turkey, 2015 (c) Julia Buzaud

Also, urban agriculture projects provides an effective tool to foster livelihoods for women staying at home. As for migration situation, it can also be a practical way to bring together host and displaced communities to work on a common and positive objective.

In Turkey, urban agriculture is barely developed. However, municipalities were the most directly affected actors by the massive arrival of Syrians in cities.  Urban agriculture represents a potential worthful tool to turn the presence of Syrian refugees into local development opportunities.

Syrians in Turkey : Characteristics of a Massive Refugee Presence in Cities

Current Situation of the Syrian Refugees in Turkey

Turkey is currently hosting 2,715,789 Syrian refugees on its soil[11] out of a total of 78 millions Turkish citizens[12]. A great majority of Syrian refugees live in urban settings, with only an approximate of 10% of the Syrian population settled in the 25 camps located in the Southeast Anatolian Region[13]. The UN estimates that 2.45 millions of Syrians will be living within host communities in Turkey in 2016[14]. Among them, 30% are expected to encounter food insecurity issues.

As Turkey is currently increasingly preventing irregular migration to Europe, international actors involved in the support to displaced and conflict-affected Syrians are currently orienting their actions towards a development and resilience-based approach including a response to Syrians’ needs but also to support communities hosting refugees.

The administrator of UNDP, Helen Clark, pushed for an urgent implementation of the resilience approach in development actors’ programs :

The Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) and the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) outline how partners can help. These are not business-as-usual plans. Conventional approaches of “relief now, development later” do not work in response to the Syria crisis or other similar protracted crises. Refugees, host communities and internally displaced people in Syria need livelihoods. They need basic services, like health, education, water, sanitation, electricity, and garbage removal. And they need hope for a better future.[15]

In addition, three to six billion euros are announced to be funded by the European Union-Turkey joint Action Plan. It aims at fostering local development and social inclusion of refugees. A total of €140 million will be dedicated to education programmes, €130 million to resilience and local development programmes, €55 million to health programmes in Turkey[16].

Role of Municipalities in the Syrian Refugee Crisis in Turkey

Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, several municipalities of Turkey have been active in providing aid to Syrian refugees settled in their territory in an ad hoc fashion.

Municipalities represent a privileged partner for NGOs as they are able to provide information about refugee population in the city, manage public infrastructures intended for the most disadvantaged population, in which services for refugees can be offered. Thus, they have a favourable position in the coordination of the different actors involved in the aid delivery and in the cohesion of Syrian and Turkish population.

However, until now, municipalities were under-represented in the coordination and funding process of the Syrian refugee crisis response. On the one hand, municipalities were not represented in the official legal framework of humanitarian assistance and on the other, they received very limited financial support from the national level. Only few projects from the UN agencies included municipalities in their response. However, some informal cooperations exist between municipalities and NGOs with different levels of municipalities’ involvement.

Moreover, considering the lack of funding, in order to further develop those programs in a sustainable fashion those programs, municipalities have to develop innovative ways to finance by themselves their response to the needs of Syrian refugees in collaboration with state institutions, civil society, international donors, NGOs and INGOs.

Developing Urban Agriculture Programs in Turkey

As forecasted in the cases of Rosario and La Havana, urban agriculture projects lead to the development of efficient tools to answer food insecurity and to provide livelihoods for thousands. Moreover, the primary requirement of urban agriculture projects at the city scale is to provide a legal access to land – for instance one of the first measure of the municipality of Rosario was to promulgate a municipal ordinance, ceding public plots to residents of shantytowns to carry out agricultural activities and inviting private property owners to cede the use of their vacant land for two years, in exchange for exemption from taxes[17].

Garden plots, Istanbul, Turkey. 2015
Garden plots in Istanbul – Turkey (c) Julia Buzaud

An alternative is to secure access to public land for urban agriculture. Such projects require a first investment to start the activity (as restoring the soil, buying tools, setting up a greenhouse … ) but can be self-sufficiently functioning. In addition agriculture project needs to be designed in the middle or long term to produce efficient results and municipalities are per se long-term actors more than NGO could be.

Moreover, the agriculture sector was employing 25% of the Syrian population before war[18]. The small farmers had already been badly impacted by the drought in 2006 in Syria. 800,000 persons had lost their livelihoods and had fled to bigger cities in order to find work[19]. These already vulnerable Syrians before war also became the most vulnerable refugees, the most prone to food insecurity. However, they are also the ones who have skills in agriculture.

Providing a way to secure livelihoods for people away from the society enables them to improve their social inclusion and to transition from informal to formal economics. By engaging a population facing harsh conditions and daily struggle, urban agriculture can be an entry point to develop an integrated approach and target other sectors as water and hygiene, nutrition, waste management … .

The specific case described along those lines is in some extent also similar
in other countries around the Mediterranean. Among Mediterranean countries
facing common issue of refugees and economic crisis at different scale, 
further exchange of best practices on urban agriculture projects shall be 
among the targets of the involved actors.
References 

[1]The Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) is the UN coordination tool.

[2] Turkey is signatory of the Geneva Convention but did not ratify the withdrawing of the geographical limitation, hence only populations fleeing conflicts or threat taking place in Europe can apply to the refugee legal status. The word refugees is used throughout this document in order to relate to the international understanding of refugees.

[3] This duration is not defined in the law and will be terminated when decided by the Government of Turkey.

[4] The regulation was released in the Official Gazette on 15 January 2015 (Muhasebe, 2016). The release of this legislation was pending for several months due to on-going discussions regarding the challenge of setting-up an employment policy beneficial for Turkey’s labour market (World Bank, 2015).

[5] ACAPS, Displacement in Aleppo, Briefing Note 7 February 2016

[6] Aquaponics are an agricultural technique mixing aquaculture and hydroponics: the plants are growing in water connected to an aquarium; the fish wastes provide nutrients for the plants.

[7]http://www.fao.org/urban-agriculture/en/?utm_content=bufferb10a8&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

[8] FAO, Growing greener cities in Latin America and the Caribean, 2014 http://www.fao.org/ag/agp/greenercities/en/whyuph/foodsecurity.html

[9] World Bank, http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/socialdevelopment/brief/social-inclusion

[10] RUAF, Promoting a city without Hunger and Indifference: Urban Agriculture in Bogota, Colombia, 2007 http://www.ruaf.org/sites/default/files/Article%204.pdf

[11] As of 3rd of March 2016, registered by the Government of Turkey and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Source: http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/country.php?id=224

[12] Turkish Statistical Institute« The Results of Address Based Population Registration System, 2014« . Retrieved 17 January 2016.

[13] 268,843 Syrians are living in camps out of 2,503,549 registered Syrians in Turkey as of 11th of January 2016 Source: https://www.afad.gov.tr/EN/IcerikDetay1.aspx?ID=16&IcerikID=848

[14] Refugee and Resilience Regional Plan 2016-2017 http://www.3rpsyriacrisis.org/

[15]http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/presscenter/speeches/2016/01/12/helen-clark-statement-at-the-briefing-on-the-syria-response-humanitarian-response-plan-hrp-regional-refugee-and-resilience-plan-3rp-and-neighboring-countries.html

[16] European Commission, Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, ‘ECHO Factsheet’, February 2015

[17] UCLG, Urban agriculture and social inclusion in Rosario, Argentina http://www.uclg-cisdp.org/sites/default/files/Rosario_2010_en_final.pdf

[18] http://www.state.gov/outofdate/bgn/syria/158703.htm

[19] World Bank, The Welfare of Syrian Refugees: Evidences from Syria and Lebanon, 2016

English below – written by Lauranne Callet (GLM2014) and Julia Buzaud (Sciences Po Lille 2014)

“As the Syrian refugee crisis enters into its fifth year, the protracted situation is having a growing impact beyond its neighbouring countries. Instability in the region is expected to persist, and consequent displacement, inside Syria and across the border into Turkey, will continue. Given the fluid situation on the ground, it is uncertain what the scale of refugee flows from Syria or Iraq in 2016 will be.” – 

The Refugee Resilience Regional Plan 2016-2017 In response to the Syria Crisis Turkey[1] states as above the current refugee crisis situation in Turkey.

With more than two million Syrians on its territory, Turkey was ranked in 2015 as the country welcoming the highest number of refugees in the world. It is the biggest host of Syria’s neighbouring countries. Away from the imaginary of camps, Syrians in Turkey live in urban settings in their great majority. Throughout their arrival, Turkish municipalities became the frontline actors in welcoming refugees and in dealing with the induced impacts in cities (such as strain on infrastructures, discrepancy of local services, inflation, unemployment …).

Although Syrians in Turkey are called refugees, they are nevertheless legally not recognised as such[2] but are under temporary protection, a legal status ensuring them the right to stay in Turkey for a temporary duration[3]. It also grants them free of charge access to health and education public services. Moreover, the possibility to apply for work permit was recently granted to Syrians[4] and added to this set of rights and duties. Despite this comprehensive legal status, the most vulnerable refugees still encounter a vast array of difficulties to secure livelihoods such as unemployment or work exploitation which can lead to food insecurity and are often in a situation of social exclusion.

Meanwhile, the conflict taking place in Syria keeps on deepening and new Syrians refugee waves of arrival are awaited in Turkey : 2,8 millions people are estimated to be in need of humanitarian aid in the only city of Aleppo. The metropolis, close to the Turkish border, expects future fights to increase[5], summing-up tothe 20,000 Syrians already waiting at the border gate to enter Turkey.

Whereas on the other hand, the humanitarian needs are under-funded. In this context, many of the actors involved in responding to the needs of Syrian refugees in Turkey gradually switched from a humanitarian approach to an integration one, with a specific focus on the topic of livelihoods, in order to foster refugees’ means of self-sufficiency, along with joint development of affected Turkish host communities. The need for development of innovative projects targeting both sustainable and resilient urban development along with social cohesion of refugees with host communities is thus greater than ever.

In other parts of the world and in different contexts, various projects of urban agriculture emerged to answer similar challenges of livelihoods, food security and social inclusion. Likewise, development of urban agriculture projects has the potential to foster livelihoods and social inclusion of Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Rationale of Urban Agriculture Projects as a Tool to Foster Social Inclusion

Agriculture emerging in Cities …

800 million people around the world practice urban agriculture, estimates the FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organisation. Urban and peri-urban agriculture can be defined as the growing of plants and the raising of animals within the boundaries of the cities. It can thus take a lot of different forms: micro-gardens, roof-gardens, community greenhouses, small livestock farming… and are also today at the intersection of social and technical innovations, for instance the aquaponics farms.[6]

Urban agriculture programs are proven to produce significant results in terms of livelihoods and food security. According to the FAO, garden plots can be up to 15 times more productive than rural holdings[7], due to the higher labour input. The urban poor households spend a major part of their incomes on food expenses – according to the FAO, from 60% to 80% of their revenues[8] . Having  access to cheap, organic and nutritious alimentary items by producing one’s own food makes these households less vulnerable to food prices fluctuations and can increase their food security in a quantitative and qualitative way.

Urban agriculture program of the municipality of Barcelona, targeting social inclusion of elderly people. Barcelona, Spain. 2016
Urban agriculture program of the municipality of Barcelona, targetting social inclusion of elderly people. Barcelona-Spain 2016 (c) Julia Buzaud

Urban agriculture programs can also create employment beyond the sole activity of farming. As a matter of example, in Argentina and Brazil, some urban agriculture projects created a wide variety of jobs as marketing and distribution systems. In La Havana, where urban agriculture is widely spread, this sector provides up to 117,000 jobs and revenues for 150,000 low-income families. Moreover fresh, local and organic food is still a limited market in the cities, despite the growing demand for such products. Urban agriculture programs, by operating in a niche-market, are forecasted as embodying an interesting economic potential with high added-value.

Beyond food security and livelihoods potential, urban gardening projects can also target other domains: raising awareness on ecology, psychosocial activities with children, youth or excluded populations.

… urban agriculture and social inclusion

Social inclusion encompasses the various processes of improving the terms for individuals and groups to take part in the society[9]. Exclusion in society often induces poverty as marginalized groups are kept away from a wide range of processes and opportunities. Tackling poverty among excluded vulnerable populations, which refugees are part of, requires reducing first these barriers to enable them to access the social system and economic markets.

In the past, several projects crossing urban agriculture and social cohesion targets were proven to produce fertile results. In Colombia, for instance the community gardening program of “Bogota without Indifference” extended the benefits of vegetable gardening to former combatants, disabled or displaced population[10]. Population displaced from rural areas by the war specifically took advantage from urban agriculture  programs.

Individuals involved in farming activities before their displacement could retrieve habits from their past occupation and feel socially valued to put again into practice their knowledge. Being involved again in an activity, being able to exchange produced goods or share knowhow also enable the most vulnerable to create social ties and to get integrated into social networks.

Community of neighbors gardening in Istanbul, Turkey. 2015
Community of neighbours gardening in Istanbul -Turkey, 2015 (c) Julia Buzaud

Also, urban agriculture projects provides an effective tool to foster livelihoods for women staying at home. As for migration situation, it can also be a practical way to bring together host and displaced communities to work on a common and positive objective.

In Turkey, urban agriculture is barely developed. However, municipalities were the most directly affected actors by the massive arrival of Syrians in cities.  Urban agriculture represents a potential worthful tool to turn the presence of Syrian refugees into local development opportunities.

Syrians in Turkey : Characteristics of a Massive Refugee Presence in Cities

Current Situation of the Syrian Refugees in Turkey

Turkey is currently hosting 2,715,789 Syrian refugees on its soil[11] out of a total of 78 millions Turkish citizens[12]. A great majority of Syrian refugees live in urban settings, with only an approximate of 10% of the Syrian population settled in the 25 camps located in the Southeast Anatolian Region[13]. The UN estimates that 2.45 millions of Syrians will be living within host communities in Turkey in 2016[14]. Among them, 30% are expected to encounter food insecurity issues.

As Turkey is currently increasingly preventing irregular migration to Europe, international actors involved in the support to displaced and conflict-affected Syrians are currently orienting their actions towards a development and resilience-based approach including a response to Syrians’ needs but also to support communities hosting refugees.

The administrator of UNDP, Helen Clark, pushed for an urgent implementation of the resilience approach in development actors’ programs :

The Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) and the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) outline how partners can help. These are not business-as-usual plans. Conventional approaches of “relief now, development later” do not work in response to the Syria crisis or other similar protracted crises. Refugees, host communities and internally displaced people in Syria need livelihoods. They need basic services, like health, education, water, sanitation, electricity, and garbage removal. And they need hope for a better future.[15]

In addition, three to six billion euros are announced to be funded by the European Union-Turkey joint Action Plan. It aims at fostering local development and social inclusion of refugees. A total of €140 million will be dedicated to education programmes, €130 million to resilience and local development programmes, €55 million to health programmes in Turkey[16].

Role of Municipalities in the Syrian Refugee Crisis in Turkey

Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, several municipalities of Turkey have been active in providing aid to Syrian refugees settled in their territory in an ad hoc fashion.

Municipalities represent a privileged partner for NGOs as they are able to provide information about refugee population in the city, manage public infrastructures intended for the most disadvantaged population, in which services for refugees can be offered. Thus, they have a favourable position in the coordination of the different actors involved in the aid delivery and in the cohesion of Syrian and Turkish population.

However, until now, municipalities were under-represented in the coordination and funding process of the Syrian refugee crisis response. On the one hand, municipalities were not represented in the official legal framework of humanitarian assistance and on the other, they received very limited financial support from the national level. Only few projects from the UN agencies included municipalities in their response. However, some informal cooperations exist between municipalities and NGOs with different levels of municipalities’ involvement.

Moreover, considering the lack of funding, in order to further develop those programs in a sustainable fashion those programs, municipalities have to develop innovative ways to finance by themselves their response to the needs of Syrian refugees in collaboration with state institutions, civil society, international donors, NGOs and INGOs.

Developing Urban Agriculture Programs in Turkey

As forecasted in the cases of Rosario and La Havana, urban agriculture projects lead to the development of efficient tools to answer food insecurity and to provide livelihoods for thousands. Moreover, the primary requirement of urban agriculture projects at the city scale is to provide a legal access to land – for instance one of the first measure of the municipality of Rosario was to promulgate a municipal ordinance, ceding public plots to residents of shantytowns to carry out agricultural activities and inviting private property owners to cede the use of their vacant land for two years, in exchange for exemption from taxes[17].

Garden plots, Istanbul, Turkey. 2015
Garden plots in Istanbul – Turkey (c) Julia Buzaud

An alternative is to secure access to public land for urban agriculture. Such projects require a first investment to start the activity (as restoring the soil, buying tools, setting up a greenhouse … ) but can be self-sufficiently functioning. In addition agriculture project needs to be designed in the middle or long term to produce efficient results and municipalities are per se long-term actors more than NGO could be.

Moreover, the agriculture sector was employing 25% of the Syrian population before war[18]. The small farmers had already been badly impacted by the drought in 2006 in Syria. 800,000 persons had lost their livelihoods and had fled to bigger cities in order to find work[19]. These already vulnerable Syrians before war also became the most vulnerable refugees, the most prone to food insecurity. However, they are also the ones who have skills in agriculture.

Providing a way to secure livelihoods for people away from the society enables them to improve their social inclusion and to transition from informal to formal economics. By engaging a population facing harsh conditions and daily struggle, urban agriculture can be an entry point to develop an integrated approach and target other sectors as water and hygiene, nutrition, waste management … .

The specific case described along those lines is in some extent also similar
in other countries around the Mediterranean. Among Mediterranean countries
facing common issue of refugees and economic crisis at different scale, 
further exchange of best practices on urban agriculture projects shall be 
among the targets of the involved actors.
References 

[1]The Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) is the UN coordination tool.

[2] Turkey is signatory of the Geneva Convention but did not ratify the withdrawing of the geographical limitation, hence only populations fleeing conflicts or threat taking place in Europe can apply to the refugee legal status. The word refugees is used throughout this document in order to relate to the international understanding of refugees.

[3] This duration is not defined in the law and will be terminated when decided by the Government of Turkey.

[4] The regulation was released in the Official Gazette on 15 January 2015 (Muhasebe, 2016). The release of this legislation was pending for several months due to on-going discussions regarding the challenge of setting-up an employment policy beneficial for Turkey’s labour market (World Bank, 2015).

[5] ACAPS, Displacement in Aleppo, Briefing Note 7 February 2016

[6] Aquaponics are an agricultural technique mixing aquaculture and hydroponics: the plants are growing in water connected to an aquarium; the fish wastes provide nutrients for the plants.

[7]http://www.fao.org/urban-agriculture/en/?utm_content=bufferb10a8&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

[8] FAO, Growing greener cities in Latin America and the Caribean, 2014 http://www.fao.org/ag/agp/greenercities/en/whyuph/foodsecurity.html

[9] World Bank, http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/socialdevelopment/brief/social-inclusion

[10] RUAF, Promoting a city without Hunger and Indifference: Urban Agriculture in Bogota, Colombia, 2007 http://www.ruaf.org/sites/default/files/Article%204.pdf

[11] As of 3rd of March 2016, registered by the Government of Turkey and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Source: http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/country.php?id=224

[12] Turkish Statistical Institute« The Results of Address Based Population Registration System, 2014« . Retrieved 17 January 2016.

[13] 268,843 Syrians are living in camps out of 2,503,549 registered Syrians in Turkey as of 11th of January 2016 Source: https://www.afad.gov.tr/EN/IcerikDetay1.aspx?ID=16&IcerikID=848

[14] Refugee and Resilience Regional Plan 2016-2017 http://www.3rpsyriacrisis.org/

[15]http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/presscenter/speeches/2016/01/12/helen-clark-statement-at-the-briefing-on-the-syria-response-humanitarian-response-plan-hrp-regional-refugee-and-resilience-plan-3rp-and-neighboring-countries.html

[16] European Commission, Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, ‘ECHO Factsheet’, February 2015

[17] UCLG, Urban agriculture and social inclusion in Rosario, Argentina http://www.uclg-cisdp.org/sites/default/files/Rosario_2010_en_final.pdf

[18] http://www.state.gov/outofdate/bgn/syria/158703.htm

[19] World Bank, The Welfare of Syrian Refugees: Evidences from Syria and Lebanon, 2016

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