The Kozak region has a unique place in both the Aegean region and Turkey at large. In comparison with other forest villages, all the villages in the region enjoy apparently higher incomes.
It will be useful to categorize the villages in the region into three groups. The villages of Kaplan, Göbeller, Yukarıbey, Demircidere and Aşağıbey go into the first group. All have large, naturally grown Stone Pine forests and have seen economic development.
Stone Pine lands which belong to village legal entities are mainly located in Aşağıbey and Kaplan (400 and 600 ha, respectively). Therefore, the income of these entities is great. Village legal entities tender pine nut areas in their purview by “küner” in Kaplan and by cash in Aşağıbey. Yukarıbey has the largest nut areas, but the number of households is overly high, resulting in a low number of nut lands per household and consequent lower per household income. The best nut land per household ratio is in the village of Göbeller. Members of this first group, especially in Göbeller and Yukarıbey, are not considering alternative income sources beyond the Stone Pine. Renovation and rehabilitation efforts for former grape-growing areas have begun in recent years in Aşağıbey and Demircidere.
The villages of Ayvatlar, Okçular, Hisarköy and Aşağıcuma, which comprise the second group, have natural Stone Pine areas and earn considerable revenue from them, but not as much as the villages in the first group. In addition, their villagers practice animal husbandry with local species to provide for themselves. But fodder crop cultivation cannot be carried out in these villages, as there is too little arable land. Hence, the development of animal husbandry, and especially expanding the range of species bred, face perhaps insurmountable hurdles.
In the third group are the villages of Çamavlu, Güneşli, Kıranlı, Karaveliler, Terzihaliller and Yukarıcuma, all of which lack natural Stone Pine areas. But through their plantation work, these villages have taken a step toward joining the second Kozak group. These villages have been seeking alternative income sources so as to better utilize their returns from Stone Pines and other revenue sources. Çamavlu and Güneşli have been investing in animal husbandry, and Kıranlı and Karaveliler have been doing the same in apiculture and animal husbandry. There has been a transition from native species to cultivated ones, especially in the breeding of large hybrid animals in these villages.
As for the region as a whole, building a large-scale irrigation dam is on Kozak’s agenda. The dam’s completion would expand areas of irrigated land in the villages of Çamavlu, Güneşli, Kıranlı, Karaveliler and Yukarıbey. By producing fodder crops (mainly corns) in these areas, the potential of animal husbandry is expected to rise.
When 2 or 3 years of low product yield is encountered, locals who have only Stone Pines for their livelihood presently cut down nut trees to make up the income loss. Creating alternative income sources will revitalize the area in this respect.
The villages of Aşağıcuma, Okçular, Ayvatlar, Kaplan, Demircidere and Hisarköy are not forest villages, as they have no productive state forestland. So these villages cannot benefit from the opportunities that forest villagers enjoy. However, they are being given support for Stone Pine areas, and the Forest Department is carrying out the necessary work for private forests in these villages. These villages utilize investments through their membership in cooperatives established with ORKÖY credits. There is no limitation in this regard.
One of Kozak’s biggest problems at present is its mining operations. Some 90% of families in the villages of Terzihaliller, Yukarıcuma and Hacıhamzalar have started extracting stone from mines which they opened themselves, having assumed them to be a good income source. However, many villagers have been unable to afford the state permit fees for these small-scale mines and so found themselves in a difficult situation. As a result, private entrepreneurs who can afford these permits have gathered up the usage rights for most of these mines. Villagers have been forced to accustom themselves to the noise of exploratory mining explosives, cracks in their houses and sand from mines as well as a dearth of income. In addition, harmful waste material released around these mines has hurt animal health. Animal husbandry suffered a decline when former grazing lands were converted into mines; erosion also resulted.
These mines have hurt the development of Stone Pines. Stone Pine trees planted on Treasury lands by villagers have been uprooted when areas were converted into mines. In fact, these areas are due to be replanted with Stone Pines after the mining operations have ended, but this income will come only after many years. In addition, villagers believe that the mining is hurting the growth of area Stone Pines even now by lowering the water table, causing a water deficit for the trees. The issue of whether mining in the region is affecting the groundwater level must be studied. In spite of these negative factors, Terzihalliler and Yukarıcuma earn good revenues from the mines. However, the villagers are aware that this activity causes erosion and damages nature in general, so they are demanding that the mines be closed and Stone Pine plantations established in their place. By making necessary arrangements in these areas, an important factor hindering Stone Pine production in Kozak could be dealt with.
In recent years the Stone Pine has started being bred as monoculture. But if Quercus cerris disappears from the area, some harmful agents currently targeting it will start endangering Stone Pines. Therefore, an avoidance of monoculture is preferable, as possible.
Villagers in Kozak are sensitive to the proper time for harvesting and collecting Stone Pine products when they are fully mature. This positive practice has been an example to regions outside Kozak, and state-organized awareness studies on the proper time for harvesting have started to yield results.
Initially livestock grazing caused grave damage to Stone Pine forests, but lately has begun to be organized with better awareness and so no longer poses a problem. In fact, Stone Pine forests make good grazing lands for animals. The large canopy closure of the nut tree protects grasses on the bottom from the burning effects of the sun, and the grasses in these areas stay green for longer and develop better. Animals cannot do damage to the forests since the areas are opened for grazing only when they reach a certain age. The Kozak region has provided a sterling example of this policy.
Stone Pines are usually in the hands of the heads of families, and these individuals meet the needs of both their children and grandchildren in the villages. They provide a life of luxury for youths in this way, keeping them nearby and preventing dissolution of the family. They could continue to support in the same way young people who move to Bergama or İzmir after getting married, but this is rare. However, this custom is not good for the young generation, since they never learn to work to earn their own keep and are kept ignorant of life’s difficulties. Village elders have cautioned against this practice, warning that youths unfamiliar with the problems involved in converting “küners” to nuts might not know the value of the business when they take over. If this happens, they say that the pine nut areas might be sold to outsiders and Kozak’s uniqueness might suffer.
Cadastral studies have almost been completed in Bergama-Kozak. However, there are still problem areas with the Forest Department in the villages of Yukarıbey, Çamavlu and Kaplan. It is important that these problems be solved as soon as possible.
State ownership in the new plantation areas do not pose any problem for the region. On the contrary, the state uses wise policies to establish plantations in degraded forestland at minimal expense. In addition, forests in the region are thereby protected and developed. This is a good example of social forestry, since under this system people earn money and standards of living rise. Through plantings in other villages near Bergama, in some 30 years’ time there could be a second “Kozak.”
The Ministry of the Environment and Forestry does not limit plantation activities to Kozak. Intensive plantation work has been going on in all areas where the Stone Pine can grow, such as Balıkesir, Muğla, Aydın, and Kahramanmaraş. The role of the Kozak region’s well-run system looms large as a guide in all these activities.
A recent momentous step for Stone Pine cultivation has been the acceleration of activities to register the nuts of Kozak’s cultivators. Expanding pine nut cultivation in areas outside Kozak has encouraged individuals to do this. Villagers who are aware of the quality of their region’s nuts spearheaded this initiative. Successful practices have been followed nationwide as a result of high levels of awareness and Kozak’s admired prosperity. Individuals are making efforts to develop their own regions, as shown by efforts to establish “village cities.” Towards this end, villagers paid their own way to visit the implementation area of Mesudiye and then launched the village city initiative. Demircidere has also taken the village of Şirince as a model. Certain social activities (wrestling, festivals, vineyard entertainments) in the region are focused on its constant development and promotion.
As a consequence, the locals are very sensitive to Stone Pine cultivation and clearly place great emphasis on the natural world. Cultivating Stone Pine plantations in other suitable areas of Turkey guided by the present Kozak example will both contribute to the economy and serve rural development.
Developing proper marketing has great importance for boosting pine nut production, so market analyses should be done carefully. When we look at import and export values in recent years, we see exports falling with no great increase in unit price. Yet at the same time imports rose with a concomitant large increase in unit price. Larger-volume, higher-quality production is a must for boosting the pine nut’s marketing edge. Therefore, it is necessary to upgrade the present nut plantations and expand production areas by adding new growing sites. It palpable that Turkey’s greatest competition comes from countries which are in the same group as it is. Therefore producing quality products is a must.
Steps towards improving storage conditions, establishing standardization and creating a trademark are crucial. In addition, marketing the pine nut after processing as a semi-product or processed product will boost revenues. Nor should advertising and promotion be neglected.
This study has played an effective role in identifying situations regarding Kozak villagers which to date had neither been observed nor duly noted.
Establishing models similar to Kozak’s is crucially important to rural development for secondary products as well as for Stone Pine-producing areas in other regions of Turkey.
A high level of awareness among individuals has been effective in creating the structure in Kozak. Therefore, forest villagers nationwide should be given training focused primarily on other non-wood products so as to create a spirit such as that seen in the Kozak region. The “Kozak model” can be a good key for this.