volume 7 Turkeys issues December 2004

Balaban Valley Project:

Improving the Quality of Life in Rural Area in Turkey

Ali Gökmen1,3, Sinan Kayaligil2, Gerhard-W. Weber3, Inci Gökmen1, Mehmet Ecevit4, Askin Sürmeli 5, Taylan Bali6, Yildiz Ecevit4, Haluk Gökmen7, Dorien J. DeTombe8

1 Department of Chemistry, 2 Department of Industrial Engineering, 3Institute of Applied Mathematics, 4 Department of Sociology, Middle East Technical University, 5 Sürdürülebilir Tarim ve Çiftçi Yardimlasma Dernegi, Sümer S. 10/16 , 6 Ankara University, Political Sciences Faculty, 7 Electrical Engineer, 8 Chair Operational Research Euro Working Group Complex Societal Problems


Over 30 % of the Turkish population live in small villages, often under poor conditions. In these regions the main source of income is agriculture. The recent globalization trend in the world makes the sustainable living conditions in rural areas very difficult. There are high cost of fertilizers and pesticides used in conventional agriculture, high fuel costs, there is the uncertainty in decision making on the type of crop to be cultivated for the coming years, the limited opportunities for education of children, and the unequal and unbearable workload for men and especially for women. Some of the difficulties are due to recent policies of IMF and World Trade Organization who impose on governments to lift subsidies on agriculture. Turkey, once considered as one of the agriculturally self-sustaining countries of the world, now imports even some of the major agricultural products like grain, beans and oil producing crops.

All these issues are closely related to each other, and can be seen as an integrated interdisciplinary complex societal problem. Before handling a complex problem, one has to make a thorough analysis of all aspects of the problem. In the proposed project, this will be realized by an integrated approach based on the COMPRAM method. Mathematical modelling, data mining and modern computer devices will be used during different phases of the study.

Social scientists, concerned about these problems, carried out studies for a long time, however, the results could not be applied. Now a real life project is proposed: the Balaban Valley Project for improving the quality of life in a rural area. The Balaban Valley Project is located 60 km east of Ankara where four villages are selected with a total population of about 1300 people.

The problems of the rural area will be handled systematically by a team of experts and students from universities, various state organizations, companies and stakeholders from the villagers living in the area, government organizations and NGO's. The decisions made will be implemented and the results will be assessed. The project will be handled dynamically, for instance, in a sense of learning, whereby any changes will be made when needed. In the course of the project, communication and interdisciplinarity, mutual respect, partnership and, finally, hope will play a significant role throughout.

An improvement of the living conditions in the rural areas is considered to be the basic interest not only of the local people, but also of entire Turkey, and even of Europe concerning its process of integration. In the last 50 years the settlement structure in Turkey has undergone a major change from rural areas to large cities. Due to the need of cheap labor in Europe, poorly equipped people from rural areas were accepted as workers from Turkey and other developing countries. The migration of people, starting from 1960's, from rural areas to large cities in their homeland Turkey and to European countries caused problems. Giving the people in rural areas a chance to improve their living conditions in their own area prevents the need of immigration to large cities, where the newcomers often have a hard time to meet the complex demands needed for adapting adequately.


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volume 7 Turkeys issues December 2004