Women to help rural development

Women to help rural development

Saffron originates in Anatolia, though the plant is not used widely in our kitchens. Growing saffron is a painstaking process. That is why it has been widely ignored and long underrated.

Saffron, also referred to as “red gold,” is the world’s most precious plant and very expensive. That is why it is not sold in “kilos” but in “grams,” at the price of 40 liras per gram. It takes an immense amount of labor to grow this plant.

Just one kilogram of saffron is extracted from 150,000 saffron crocuses and the extraction process is tedious work because the thorns make it difficult to remove the desired parts from the inside of the plant. This labor-intensive work gets rewarded not only in the kitchens but also in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries. A tiny bit of saffron can easily dye large amounts of water, which is why it is widely used in paint production. The pharmaceutical industry uses the plant for its positive effects on human health. Saffron mainly grows in Turkey’s Safranbolu province. Since 2017 it has also been planted in the Çukurova region, thanks to the detergent firm ABC Deterjan’s project titled: “In its proper place.”

Women creating value for the economy

Some 22 women have been trained to grow saffron in the town of Bahçe in Osmaniye province where the ABC factory is located. They began to grow the plant when their training was complete.

At the beginning, it looked unlikely that saffron could grow on these soils. However, studies carried out jointly with the Bahçe Chamber of Agriculture showed that the soil was appropriate for growing saffron there. In the first year of the project, 5,000 square meters of land were allocated for saffron production. This land was then distributed among the female farmers. Job opportunities were created for women who now earn a steady income for the first time in their lives. More importantly, women have realized their productivity potential, making contributions to their own communities and to the country’s economy. But it does not stop there. By working on their own plots of land, those women have become more confident in themselves.

The other objectives of the project are to prevent youth migration by creating alternative economic opportunity, to improve the quality of women’s lives and to enrich women’s vision of the world.

Turkey’s saffron production has been projected to increase 75 percent in three years.

In the first year of the project, 900 kilograms of saffron bulbs were purchased at a price of 100 liras per kilo. In 2018, the cultivation area will double and more women will be employed.

The target is to increase Turkey’s annual saffron output by 75 percent and to have a total of 66 women employed in saffron production.

During the project’s lifetime, the profits generated from the sale of ABC’s softener products, which include saffron, will be channeled into a fund, which will be used to finance the project. Some part of the resources collected in the fund will be used in the later phases of the project to support new agricultural and artisanal ventures each year.

I have kept saying it: Development, especially rural development, is only possible if women get out of their homes and join the labor force. We hope to see more initiatives like this one.

Melis Alphan, hdn, Opinion