During this year’s (2016) hazelnut harvest, Corporate Communications Officer Ana Pamela Delgadillo visited Ordu, the largest hazelnut producing city in Turkey.  Her goal? Finding out more about the development of our new program for sustainable hazelnuts. Here she shares her diary with the highlights of her trip. 

Ana Pamela Delgadillo, corporate communications office at UTZ, in Turkey

Ana Pamela in Turkey

Day 1 – Motivation

My first visit is to Miss Uğurcan Köksal, Quality Manager at Poyraz & Poyraz, a hazelnut processing and trading factory and UTZ member since 2015. She explains that demand for sustainable hazelnut is increasing. “We believe UTZ certification can help farmers better perform and professionalize. It offers us a reliable traceability system” she says.

Hazelnut farmer Orhan Güler and daughter

Mr. Orhan Güler and his daughter

Up in the hills, I meet Mr. Orhan Güler, proud owner of 10 hectares of hazelnut orchards. “Tough weather conditions like frost affect productivity”, he says. “I have been using the same techniques for the last 15 years and now I think it’s time for change.”

Mr Güler is excited about the new agricultural practices he has been learning thanks to the certification process and the support of Poyraz & Poyraz. He hopes to become an example for other farmers, encouraging them to join the program.

Day 2 – Inspiration

Before the trip I already knew that the hazelnut sector has been associated with child labor. Workers are usually migrants traveling together with their families, and their children traditionally join them in the fields. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I visit a school set up by the Turkish Ministry of Labor and the ILO. The school runs for six weeks over the summer to cover the hazelnut harvest season. This year 130 kids aged 4-16 are being taught by inspiring volunteer teachers.

“It’s addictive, I have been doing it for 4 years and can’t seem to stop”, says one of the teachers. “We are the kids’ model, they are our drive.”

Children's artwork summer school: "these hands do not harvest hazelnuts"

Children’s art in summer school: “These hands do not harvest hazelnuts”

Day 3 – Commitment

13km from the city center of Giresun (a neighbouring city of Ordu) and into the forest lies the Akbaş farm. The owner, Mr. Özer Akbaşlı, welcomes us in a modern and well maintained building, the Akbas family and workers’ house. At the entrance hangs a sign with the words ‘Children are not working in our garden’ in Turkish.

Fifteen workers are just finishing lunch and are getting ready to go back to the orchard, and together with Mr Akbaşlı we talk about the farm’s commitment to social benefits. Good accommodation and meals, transport to the farm as well as health and safety measures, have convinced workers go back to the same farm every year – something unusual in a sector where workers often have to travel around to find enough work.

Hazelnut farmer Özer Akbaşlı and Mustafa Şahin, head of Keşap Farmer Union

Owner of Akbaş hazelnut farm, Özer Akbaşlı together with the head of the Keşap Farmer Union

The hazelnut sector is very complex. A lot has been done to tackle productivity and social issues. But of course, much more can and should be done. I am confident that together with committed and inspiring farmers and companies, and in partnership with NGO’s and governments we will be able to drive real change.

A change I hope to witness during next year’s harvest.