IB | Three million Syrians, three million trees: one tree for every Syrian in Turkey
Syrian refugees and Turkish citizens plant trees together in Istanbul’s public areas with the support of the German Government.
Istanbul, 14 June 2017. ‘This project is a triple win: For nature, for the people living here as well as for the Syrian and Turkish participants who found employment and income opportunities,’ says the German Ambassador to Turkey, Martin Erdmann. Today is the official closing ceremony of the project ‘Three million Syrians, three million trees’. It has started in March 2017 and will be finished by end of June.
‘A lot of Istanbul’s green areas have been cleared of trees recently, for instance, in the plots near the newly constructed third Bosporus bridge and in the area where Istanbul’s third airport is currently being built,’ describes Ali Osman Taslica. ‘Our president wanted us to plant six trees for each tree which has been felled because of the bridge’s construction. This is the main idea of the project.’ Osman Taslica is the head behind the project who proposed this initial idea to the German social service provider Internationaler Bund (IB), a close partner of the Turkish foundation Darülaceze Vakfi (DAV) Osman is working for.
Soon, IB and its daughter company in Turkey, IBETH, joined forces with the German organisation Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and DAV to plant trees together with Syrian refugees and poor Turkish citizens in Istanbul. The aim is to provide income opportunities for the most vulnerable Syrian and Turkish members of refugee hosting municipalities in Istanbul while rehabilitating Istanbul’s public infrastructure and contributing to the city’s green environment at the same time. ‘Three million Syrians, three million trees’ is financed by the German Government with GIZ as the main implementing organisation.
In close cooperation with the Turkish General Directorate of Forestry and the two Istanbul municipalities of Sariyer and Beykoz, ‘Three million Syrians, three million trees’ has succeed in providing 1,110 participants with a temporary income for three months. Presently, 885 men and 225 women receive the Turkish minimum wage of 1,402 Turkish Lira per month. 80% of them are Syrian refugees, 20% Turkish citizens. With their wages, they provide for their families. Assuming that each household consists of five persons on average, 5,550 people are supported. For some of the Syrian refugees, it is the first time they have access to the formal Turkish labour market and the first time they have a Turkish bank account.
As a main partner of the project, the Turkish General Directorate of Forestry has determined the planation areas in Istanbul. On the city’s European side, Sariyer has been chosen as a nursery ground. The saplings which are raised here are planted in the municipality of Beykoz on Istanbul’s opposite Anatolian shore. Until now, 4 million saplings have been raised and 1.7 million trees been planted.
‘We enjoyed a very good collaboration with the Turkish General Directorate of Forestry and the two Istanbul municipalities Sariyer and Beykoz when administering the project,’ says Tarik Bitlis, IBETH’s General Manager. GIZ Country Director Carl F. Taestensen emphasizes, ‘It is a very unique and successful Turkish-German cooperation and shows ‘Cash for Work’ at its best.’
On behalf of the German Government and together with various Turkish partners, GIZ implements two ‘Cash for Work’-projects in Turkey: Both provide temporary income opportunities for Syrian refugees and Turkish citizens when rehabilitating public infrastructure or taking part in courses for being qualified in handicrafts. The projects address both sides to foster social cohesion in the refugee hosting communities. Since April 2016, 7,500 men and women have participated in GIZ’s ‘Cash for Work’-activities in Turkey.
‘Now the planting season is over,’ says Osman Bey. ‘We have managed to provide 1,110 people with jobs and planted 1.7 million trees in Istanbul. It’s a good start! I hope and am looking forward to continue the good cooperation we enjoyed with our German partners in one way or another.’
With three million refugees, Turkey is the number one refugee destination in the world. No country hosts more refugees. Only 10% of them live in camps. The overwhelming majority has settled down in urban areas along the Syrian-Turkish border and in the big cities Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir. Presently, Istanbul hosts 540,000 Syrian refugees.