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Economic Development

Cafer Yüksel

Cafer Yüksel Leads the Forest Villagers' Cooperative Movement in Turkey

On 23 December 2010 Sabancı Foundation's "Turkey's Changemakers" program hosts Cafer Yüksel, who aims to improve the living and working conditions of forest villagers in Turkey.

Forests constitute 25 percent of Turkey's land surface. Forest villagers affiliated with cooperatives work in 70 percent of those forests. Forest villagers live on minimum wage without any social security benefits during harsh winters in Turkey.

As the child of a forest villager, Cafer Yüksel witnessed the poor living and working conditions of forest villagers. In order to help solve the villagers' problems, Yüksel organized them under a systematic structure. The idea came to him while he was working as a teacher in Northern Anatolia, a region known for its heavily forested areas.

To improve working and living conditions, Yüksel established a rural development cooperative in his community. He later developed the cooperative in other villages and nearby provinces. His desire to enhance the lives of forest villagers eventually led Yüksel to merge all the local cooperatives into a national one, and in 1997 the Central Assembly of Forest Cooperatives was established.

As an efficient way to strengthen individual economic power, the forest villagers' cooperative movement has become useful not only to increase income and create new employment opportunities but also in making considerable contributions to the villagers' social lives. As of today, 300.000 forest villagers, 3.000 local cooperatives, and 27 regional cooperatives have come together under Yüksel's leadership.

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