Izmir Agriculture Development Center

Izmir Metropolitan Municipality envisions rural basins of Izmir as areas where local producers can nourish culturally and economically, in harmony with nature. 

With this objective, Izmir Metropolitan Municipality implements a holistic strategy that is implemented by two institutions. The first institution is the Izmir Agriculture Development Center that works as a pillar of the Izmir Planning Agency (IZPA). The second is the School of Circular Agriculture which strives for growing the human capacity that will underpin the implementation of the agricultural strategy of the Municipality.

Izmir Agriculture Development Center is established in Sasali village, at the Cigli district of Izmir. The center aims at developing a basin-wide agricultural production plan for Izmir province along with supporting local producers to sustain local seed and animal varieties. 

The agricultural vision of the Center is guided by the philosophy and the criteria of the Circular Agriculture. Circular Agricultural has been developed within the framework of eight  main criteria:

1. The cultivated products are compatible with the microclimate of the region where they are grown. 
2. Products shall have low demand for water and electricity and generate a low carbon footprint.
3. External inputs used for production cannot have excessive water and carbon footprint.
4. Production cannot be carried out through large-scale excavation and disruption of natural topography. 
5. Intensive interventions that decrease biological diversity in production are avoided.
6. Production is conducted in harmony with the natural character of the basin and geography where it is situated.
7. The produced items shall be processed in a way that they do not adversely affect producers, consumers and the biological diversity of that region.
8. The production methods include region-specific land maintenance practices as much as possible.

The implementation of the Circular Agriculture Program contributes to promote nature-based agriculture. Izmir Agriculture Development Center also operates as the legal certifier of the Circular Agricultural Program.

Guided by Circular Agriculture criteria Izmir Agriculture Development Center implements a basin-oriented agricultural strategy built upon six main pillars, planned through scientific and holistic approaches. 

This strategy’s fundamental difference from conventional agriculture lies in its focus on nature-based solutions and significant water savings in irrigation, thereby combating drought. This strategy doesn't merely consider farming an activity restricted to arable land but encompasses the entire process from seed stage to end consumer, contributing to poverty alleviation.

The second difference of the Izmir Agriculture Development Center’s strategy is its focus on poverty alleviation. By strategically implementing sales and marketing action plans it enhances the added value of products from the beginning, combats poverty and increases prosperity.

Today, the world is grappling with the global climate emergency and striving to use water resources most efficiently. Considering the recent increase in average temperatures, the importance of efficient and economical use of water resources has become evident. 

One of the fundamental tactics of Izmir Agriculture Development Center’s strategy is its emphasis on cultivating agricultural products that do not require irrigation, relying on rainfall or efficient irrigation methods. As a result, Izmir’s goal is to achieve at least a 50 percent reduction in the water used for agricultural irrigation. Most of this 50 percent reduction will be completed by appropriately cultivating the right agrarian products in suitable locations. 

This way, significant profitability will be achieved to reduce costly investments such as dams or well drilling. While effectively combating the climate emergency and drought on the one hand, rural development will be achieved through increased production efficiency and profitability on the other. 

Consequently, Izmir’s agriculture strategy is constructing a local model that can also be replicated elsewhere in Turkey and other regions of the world.

Izmir's Agriculture Development Center’s strategy vision is built upon six fundamental pillars:

Region-specific strategic products
In this context, the focus is given to selecting region-specific strategic products that use minimal water resources. The primary outcomes in this category are small livestock meat and dairy products, grains, and heritage forage crops. Following are olive oil and, finally, grape products. Within the scope of Izmir agriculture, in addition to these strategic products, other products such as chestnuts, aquatic products, and aromatic plants in the sub-basins are also supported. These products have potentially high market value and export probability, they thrive with rainfall, require minimal irrigation and have the potential for large-scale production in extensive areas.

As part of this first pillar the first comprehensive pasture livestock support project in Turkey, the Mera İzmir (Pasture Izmir) Project, is implemented. The project aims to end rural poverty, combat drought, and enhance accessibility of safe and healthy food. For this purpose, it supports the shepherds and small producer cooperatives who graze their animals in pastures supplemented by domestic and anhydrous food crops.

Within the scope of the project a total of 5117 shepherds were identified resulting in the first shepherd map of Turkey. With the Mera İzmir project, livestocks grazing in the pasture for 7 months or more are supported via giving purchase guarantee. 

Production supports
Within this framework, the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality makes direct purchases from local  producer cooperatives. These products are delivered to economically disadvantaged citizens, thus establishing a strong bridge of empathy between rural and urban areas. Moreover, efforts embrace developing machinery parks to provide farmers and producers with machinery and equipment support. Support for small livestock, beekeeping, seeds, and fruit saplings will also continue as part of the plan. 

Purchase and sale guarantee
The backbone of Izmir’s agriculture strategy will be the purchase and sale guarantee provided by the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality to farmers, producers, and livestock breeders. The agricultural company established by the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality, called IzTarım, handles the logistics, processing, packaging, and sales and marketing chain of the products it acquires from producers. Running all these operations on behalf of the municipality, IzTarım also serves as an example for other agricultural companies and cooperatives.

To provide sales guarantee, Izmir Agriculture Development Center provides direct assistance to local producer cooperatives on branding, marketing and exporting their products. 

Processing and direct sales
IzTarim established a milk processing factory in Bayındır, Izmir with a total investment cost of 400 million TRL, on an area of 18.000 m2, with a construction area of 6.000 m2 closed area. This facility, which has a milk processing capacity of 100 tons per day, will serve with a milk processing capacity of 36 million liters per year in case of single shift operation.

All raw material supply of the factory, which employs 130 people, is made from small family businesses through cooperatives.

Although the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality aspires to one-tenth of the milk produced in Izmir, it has regulated the price of ovine milk one hundred percent. This situation brought with it the result of reintroducing ovine milk, which is the intrinsic value of Izmir ecoregion, to the economy. Therefore, despite being a local government, the municipality played a major role to fairly regulate the price of ovine milk.

The process, which started with product planning and a shepherd's map, resulted in the launch of products purchased from small producers under the brand “İzmirli”. Today, the healthiest milk produced in the pastures of Izmir has turned into healthy food that can be accessed by the people of Izmir.

Bayındır Dairy Factory is not only a public investment, but also the result of a brand new vision of a local government, which has social, economic and ecological foundations.

Today, agriculture is not solely associated with production. This extensive ecosystem generates various ancillary economies and income streams in many areas, particularly agro-tourism. One of the goals of Izmir’s agriculture strategy is to promote rural development by implementing agro-tourism activities, thereby enabling farmers to earn additional income throughout the year.

Evaluation and Monitoring 
The strategy of Izmir Agriculture Development Center is continuously monitored, evaluated and enhanced through research and development activities, capacity building and certification processes. 

The following ten outputs are expected to arise from the implementation of the Izmir’s agriculture strategy:

1. Agricultural water usage is reduced by 50%, preserving our drinking water.
2. Local agricultural products that do not require irrigation have high economic value and are supported with purchase guarantees.
3. Branding and marketing of agricultural products are supported, enhancing their added value.
4. High-potential export-quality agricultural products are encouraged, contributing to economic growth.
5. Small producers' organizations are promoted, enabling farmers to sustain themselves where they were born.
6. Women and youth regain influence in the agricultural economy, improving rural quality of life.
7. Agricultural areas are developed not only for food production but also for the benefit of  the entire web of life, supporting nature conservation.
8. The climate crisis is combated by using soil, water, and seeds in the most balanced way.
9. Local seeds and animal breeds are protected to support the resilience of agriculture.
10. Urban residents gain access to healthy, reliable and affordable food.

The Izmir Agriculture Development Center operates five major programs:

- Conservation of agricultural gene resources 
- Protection and development of ancient production forms
- Izmir agriculture hotline
- Circular agriculture certification
- Product planning at the basin scale