Empowering local and refugee women through a cooperative

Jobs & Livelihoods

Empowering local and refugee women through a cooperative


The project in brief

Implemented by

Meryem Women’s Cooperative - Turkey




July 2020 - Ongoing


The Cooperative implements various productions (masks, mushrooms, agricultural, sapling and 3D printer) and has a green solar powered fruit and vegetable dryer greenhouse. The Cooperative is working with 165 local and refugee women aiming to give opportunities of livelihood in the context with mitigating and adapting with the adverse effects of climate change and increasing the resilience of the vulnerable people. All the implementations are carried out with recycled energy usage.

Project aims 

  1. Our first aim was to improve livelihood opportunities for the vulnerable women through on the job trainings.
  2. Our second aim was to increase the social cohesion among local and refugee communities through increased employment opportunities and social cohesion activities.
  3. Our goal was to achieve these activities through creating green jobs that also will pave the way for mitigating and adapting to adverse effects of the climate change.

Resources used 

The project was funded by INGO’s and UN Agencies and a win-win approach was pursued between the Adana Metropolitan Municipality (AMM) and Meryem Women’s Cooperative according to the Social and Solidarity Economy principles of the UN. Hence, the AMM supported the Meryem Women’s Cooperative in every aspect. The nature of this kind of cooperative facilitated working with the most vulnerable groups of the society.

Main activities of the Good Practice

Main activities of the Cooperative include open air farming, greenhouse farming, production of sapling, mushrooms, masks, textile, 3D printer products and drying fruits and vegetables, social cohesion and PSS activities.

The production of agricultural produce took place on 60,000m2 of land belonging to the municipality with the guidance of 3 agricultural engineers and 60 refugees and host community members. The sapling production is also on this land in a 3.000 m2 greenhouse. The 90m2 mushroom greenhouse was installed for production by 15 refugees and host community members. A greenhouse specialized for drying fruits and vegetables with solar power systems, is built on land allocated by the AMM. In this greenhouse, currently, the cooperative dries strawberries, kiwis, pineapples and bananas with 30 participants. After these fruits are dried, they are then packaged in the greenhouse. In the near future, the cooperative plans to dry vegetables produced in its farmland.

The production of face masks takes place in a 800m2 closed hall belonging to the municipality. 45 refugees and host community members work while respecting social distancing requirements and wearing equipment against COVID-19. Each worker has about 17m2 to work.

The production with the 3D printers is set in closed hall belonging to the municipality with 15 refugees and host community members. The productions are implemented using recycling materials, renewable energy sources and good farming techniques. Social cohesion and PSS activities were implemented together with the partner INGO’s / NGO’s and UN agencies.



  • ILO Turkey
  • Adana Metropolitan Municipality
  • UNDP Turkey
  • IOM Turkey

Challenges and how they were overcome


  • When implementing the project, we had to tackle the adverse effects of the COVID-19. The project proposal was written before the pandemic, but when we stepped forward to implement the project, the pandemic started.
  • The funding of the project stopped after 8 months because of external issues. This affected the project's sustainability.
  • Residence permits of some participants began to be cancelled.
  • We had a little knowledge of professional production techniques and marketing in the beginning.
  • The women had a little or no knowledge of the cooperative.
  • We were the first to implement a SSE cooperative in Turkey.

How they were overcome

  • Because of the pandemic, social distancing requirements wearing equipment for COVID-19 precautions were implemented. We talked with the women and asked them to respect pandemic rules. The women who get into contact with other people were asked not to participate in the activities of the project unless they are able to prove that they are not COVID positive. During nearly two years we did not have a single COVID case in our 165 participants.
  • After the funding ended, we tried very hard to sustain the cooperative and the project. With the great support from the municipality, we continued our production processes. We continued to deliver stipends to our participants through selling our productions. The nature of the SSE cooperative proved its strength in our case. We couldn’t improve our production modules but we could strive to continue our productions.
  • The participants who had problems to extend the duration of their residence permit were referred to relevant institutions and non-governmental organizations for the renewal of their residence permits and further support needed.
  • After the project implementation started, we saw our gaps and poor knowledge in production and marketing. We quickly asked capacity building trainings from professionals and experts from the municipality supported us in these issues. Our participants and project staff quickly started to learn the details and hints in production and marketing.
  • We asked from NGO’S to support us in increasing the capacity of the participants in cooperative issues. We had several capacity building trainings and the women started to understand why the cooperative is important for them.
  • To implement the first SSE cooperative was a hard issue to handle. To explain why a SSE cooperative is very important in reducing the poverty and improving the sustainable development was really hard. Even academics in the university who are working on sustainable development did not have much insight about SSE. But after everyone saw that even without funds the cooperative was able to survive and continue production, the cooperative began to become a model for everyone in the field.
Women wearing masks sit in a circle

Results of the Good Practice 

  • During the hard times of the pandemic, while everyone was becoming poorer and losing their jobs, the participants of the cooperative continued their work and had a great chance to reach livelihood opportunities via cooperative.
  • When we started farming, we built an underground rainwater harvesting pool with 98 tons of capacity and used drip irrigation system. All of the neighbouring farmers did not understand why we used these techniques but when all the farmers faced the most drought winter, they saw that only our farmland was irrigated. Some farmers then started to use the same techniques to tackle drought problems.

How the project meets the GCR Objectives

Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance

The cooperative gave refugees a chance to reach employment opportunities through proper designed on the job training activities. Also aid kits were delivered to the refugees to support them. Capacity building trainings such as how to tackle the pandemic, the essentials of a cooperative, GBV, hygiene etc. were delivered to refugees. The cooperative also created a safe environment for refugees and raised awareness to solidarity among the society for refugees. All these actions were taken in order to pave the way for refugees to become equal and free members of the society they live in. 

Next steps 

A solar panel system is aimed to be built in the farmland to use solar power instead of city electricity, in addition to implementation of recycling projects to support the SDG’s in the region. The cooperative will also involve in providing protection services to vulnerable people in the region.

Further support required for the project to continue or scale up

Further financial support is needed to build an underground drip irrigation system, to increase the capacity of solar panels and to invest in recycling projects in the region. In addition, support is necessary for capacity building in running an SSE cooperative and increasing the capacity of the cooperative to be more sustainable and hence to be able to reach more participants.


Submitted by: 

Adil Murat Vural, Advisor of the Cooperative and project expert in Adana Metropolitan Municipality

[email protected]