HATAY, Turkey 

A newly opened farmers school in southern Turkey has been providing both natives and Syrian asylum seekers with the opportunity to find a job or start their own businesses after months of both theoretical and practical training.

Trainees at the applied farmers school in Hatay province near the Syrian border are being trained in cultivating olives, strawberries, cotton and various vegetables, as well as in animal breeding and produce packaging.

The initiative was launched in August as part of an EU-backed €10 million ($12.3 million) project in cooperation with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), as well as Turkey’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services.

Set to last 16 months, similar projects have been ongoing in other provinces including Istanbul, Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Adana, Mersin, Bursa, Izmir, Konya and Kilis.

Turkey hosts nearly 4 million refugees, including over 3.6 million Syrians, more than any other country in the world.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Director Ergun Colakoglu said the participants were also taught in good agricultural practices.

“At the end of the course, we’ll try to increase the employment of the trainees and provide a qualified seasonal labor force,” Colakoglu added.

Noting their cooperation with Turkey’s Employment Agency (ISKUR), Colakoglu said the trainees would be registered with ISKUR to help them get jobs after completing their course.

One woman taking part in the program, Naime Halil, said she came to Turkey from Syria’s western Hama region with her husband and three children.

Noting that she joined the school to support her family, Halil said that although she was a teacher in Syria, she could not find a similar position in Turkey.

“When I found out that there was such a course, I decided to participate,” she said.

“I didn’t know anything about agriculture before. Now, I’ve learned a lot about vegetables, their diseases, the cultivation of the soil,” she added.

After completing the course, Halil plans to work at a produce packaging factory.

Other trainees at the course, like Rena Salih, learned about the course from their friends.

“I learned a lot about farming and animal breeding in the course,” said Salih, who came to Turkey from the Humus region in Syria six years ago.

“I hope I’ll settle down for a job at the end of the course. I’m ecstatic to be able to financially support my family,” she added.

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