Rebuilding from rubble in Türkiye
There are dozens of cars and crowds of people lined along the dusty roads of Yaylakonak, in the Adiyaman province of Türkiye. The people have gathered here for mourning on the 36th day since the earthquake. Nearly three thousand people have gathered in this town, built on a high hill, to remember their loved ones.
“We have 100 funerals here alone,” says Abuzer Aydin, the Mayor of Yaylakonak, as he leans against the debris on the hill of what’s left of his town. “Our houses and stables collapsed. Our water channels were destroyed. Over a thousand animals perished; our beehives were demolished, and even the surfaces of our fields were destroyed.”
Animal losses in this area were particularly high, as these 11 provinces host 16.3 per cent of the small livestock population and 12 per cent of the large livestock population in Türkiye. Even after the earthquake, many families had no way of feeding their animals so had to sell them off at low prices: “We sold them so the animals wouldn’t die of hunger,” says Mayor Aydın.
While greeting the crowds coming to offer condolences, the mayor tells us about how his village used to be: “This was a very productive village. We had beekeeping and animal husbandry here. We had fruit trees. Now everything is gone,” he laments.
Distressed but not hopeless, Mayor Aydin continues, “This is our ancestral land. We are mourning now, but we will rise again. We will rebuild everything that has been destroyed.”
In Ahmet Hoca, another village nestled on a mountainside in the province of Adıyaman, there is another large crowd of mourners. At the end of the village, there are rows of collapsed barns and houses. Village leader, Mukhtar Zeynel Öztürk, shows us the ruins and says, “We have 15 dead bodies just here, and more than 100 animals were trapped under the rubble.”
Mukhtar explains that the villagers need all kinds of assistance, “We need feed and fertilizer, urgently. The season has already started, but we haven’t even been able to apply fertilizer to our fields yet. If we were given animals in place of the ones that we have lost, we could continue production.”
A predominantly agricultural area, Adıyaman is one of the 11 provinces that suffered the most from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake and aftershocks almost as strong that ravaged much of southern Türkiye and northern Syria. The death toll in this province alone reached 3 500. The number of buildings here that are severely damaged, have collapsed or urgently need to be demolished totals almost 11 000, with nearly 31 000 homes affected.
The 11 provinces hit by the earthquake are also known as Türkiye’s “Fertile Crescent”, an area made up of 4 million hectares of agricultural land. In total, 15.3 per cent of the country’s agricultural products are generated in these earthquake-affected provinces. It is also home to a total of 15.73 million people, including 1.73 million Syrian refugees.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is supporting government-led efforts to help earthquake-affected communities sustain and recover basic food production, while further assessing agricultural damage and needs at a wider scale. The preliminary assessments indicate significant impacts on agriculture, with estimates of USD 1.3 billion in damages and USD 5.1 billion in losses to the sector.
All the links of the value chain, from production and storage to transportation, suffered a major blow, and there are deep concerns about long-term food security, with agricultural and livestock enterprises at risk. Access to agricultural inputs has become difficult in the region, and some agricultural activities have stopped due to labour losses and shortages. This situation is even more concerning as the summer harvest approaches.
The FAO Assistant Representative in Türkiye, Ayşegül Selışık, reports, “The farmers’ first need is fertilizers at the moment. Soon there will be a need for agricultural workers in addition to this. There is also significant damage to irrigation channels and equipment. It is the responsibility of FAO and other organizations to replace them so that rural life can continue as before and people can find their way forward without despair.”
“Our efforts will continue to ensure this,” says Abdul Majid, FAO’s Global Coordinator of the Food Security Cluster. Majid describes, “The destruction here is enormous… We have seen severe losses in terms of both people and animals. It is essential that the international community responds as soon as possible.”
Despite the mourning, thoughts are forced to turn to this year’s crop to avoid further disaster for these rural communities. “We have livestock and cultivated agricultural products that need to be protected. We need to focus on agriculture and animal husbandry to protect this year’s crop and the remaining animals,” says Majid.
Together with the government, other United Nations agencies and local partners, FAO is responding to urgent needs by providing cash, rehabilitating damaged household infrastructure, distributing livestock feed and providing agricultural inputs. It said that more needs to be done and fast to help people protect their remaining assets in time, secure a harvest, rebuild their livelihoods and, with that, have the means to recover.
Majid urged, “We need to help people recover as soon as possible. Otherwise, we may lose a significant opportunity and the entire harvest season.”
Source: the FAO News and Media office, Rome
– global bihari bureau