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Environment > Season 02 > Hayrettin Karaca and Nihat Gokyigit

Date: 16.06.2011 (Season 2 - Episode 32)

Hayrettin Karaca and Nihat Goktigit Don't Let Turkey Become a Desert

On 16 June 2011 Sabanci Foundation's Turkey's Changemakers hosts Hayrettin Karaca and Nihat Gokyigit, who established the Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion for Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats (TEMA) in 1992 to raise awareness on environment.

It is estimated that 90 percent of soil erosion in Turkey occurs in agricultural land. The major cause of soil erosion is misuse of agricultural land and inappropriate agricultural practices. Two Changemaking individuals have been working to change soil loss in Turkey for numerous years: Hayrettin Karaca and Nihat Gokyigit.

Hayrettin Karaca's love for the nature has a very long past. A true believer in living in harmony with the nature, Mr. Karaca established Turkey's first botanical garden in Yalova (a northern city in Turkey) back in 1980. When searching for new plants to showcase in his botanical garden all across the country, Mr. Karaca witnessed first-hand the depth of the soil erosion threat in Turkey. He also realized that environmental issues were almost never a topic of discussion in Turkey and that most of the population's knowledge on the country's geography is limited to what was taught in elementary school. So he decided to take action. With Nihat Gokyigit, a businessman and a dear friend, he established the Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion, for Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats (TEMA) in 1992.

Under Mr. Gokyigit and Mr. Karaca's leadership, TEMA fast became one of Turkey's leading environmental organizations. Across the country, TEMA implemented 48 projects on rural development, 12 on safeguarding biodiversity and 89 on forestation, for a total of 149 projects on 170.000 hectares of land. To this day, in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Forest, TEMA planted 8 million 300 thousand saplings and 650 million oak seeds.

The TEMA Foundation does more than planting trees and increasing environmental awareness; in its 19 years of existence, TEMA was heavily involved in the passing of 2 crucial legislations: the Pasture Act, which was passed in 1998 and the Land Act passed in 2005. Besides aiming systematic change perhaps their biggest achievement was their ability in reaching out the public and raising awareness among very large crowds. TEMA Foundation has 422 thousand registered volunteers in 75 cities and 450 townships across Turkey.

As of today, Mr. Karaca and Mr. Gokyigit have been awarded many prizes by both national and international organizations in their struggle for environment.

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