Bolu-Seben-Alpagut Village Sustainable Life Project

sustainable life project

Economic development and growth are both crucial to governments. However, in order to achieve these goals, governments make choices that have undeniably negative impacts on the environment. This shift in the natural balance leads to consequences such as unemployment and poverty ; for instance, villages are left underdeveloped. Young people living in villages are hence forced to migrate to cities where there are more opportunities. This forced migration creates a loss of dynamism in villages. The aforementioned issues are well reflected in the village of Alpagut.

As an attempt to improve living conditions in Alpagut, teachers and students of 9 high schools have visited this village many times since 2013. We met the reeve of Alpagut in order to discuss several possible solutions to the problems this community is facing on a daily basis.

As a solution, we built a permaculture garden and started practicing permaculture to help develop the village. We are aiming to promote a sustainable development of the village and thus to reverse migration.


City: Istanbul

Project Coordinators: Seval Erol, Didem Demirci, Gözde Girgirlar, İnci Kimyonşen, Şükran Toy, Sedat Toy, Erol Şahin,Gözde Girgirlar, Ferdağ Sezer

Schools: Ted İstanbul College Foundation Private High School, Notre Dame De Sion High School, Eyüboğlu Private High School, Robert College, Saint Michel Private High School, Mef Private High School, Marmara Private High School, Saint Joseph Private High School, Vehbi Koç Foundation Private High School

Participants: 9 teachers and over 100 high school students from 9 different schools.

Project objectives:

  • To enable students to become the main actors in their learning process,

  • To broaden students’ vision of their geographical and cultural environment,

  • To improve local social and economic conditions in Alpagut.

Project implementation:

The project started on 9 November 2013, with the visit of 80 students from 4 different schools to Alpagut. We interviewed villagers about migration and life within the community, and we learnt about the village’s agricultural, social, economic and tourism potential.

After having getting to know the village better, we decided to apply permaculture practices, in order to increase agricultural efficiency and promote ecotourism in the village.

In cooperation with the mayor, we prepared vegetable beds, planted endemic seeds and built an irrigation system. We then harvested the crops, took them to our schools and introduced the village to our schools’ communities. We then started to repair an abandoned school building to be used as housing facility for guests.

Since 2013, we have been visiting the village at different times of the year to maintain and harvest vegetable beds, raise awareness around us on traditional farming among farmers practicing traditional agriculture and promote it by shopping in the village.

This year, we have been working on the housing facility, buying and putting together solar panels on the roof, and setting up a system to gather rainwater. In order to raise funds, we organized charity fairs in our schools and gathered enough money to achieve our goals regarding the creation of the housing facility.

We have made great progress in this project’s implementation, which has been ongoing for 3 years now. The village has potential to be a great ecotourism destination and we would like to highlight it. Each school visits the region at least twice a year and we promote this project in our schools and via social media. Furthermore, we have breathed new life into the economy of the region; thus, we have constructed a “bridge of love” between Istanbul and Bolu.

We are still pursuing our project by improving and expanding every aspect of it.

Project results:

  • Training of students in permaculture design approach.

  • Social media publications:

  • Contribution to the village’s economy by improving local agricultural practices and highlighting the village’s potential with regard to ecotourism.

  • Acquisition of new skills for both students and villagers with regard to environmental management, conservation, efficient usage of energy and water collection.

  • Sharing of experiences with students from all over the world at the Caretakers of the Environment International Conference, Denmark, from 28 June to 4 July 2016:

Challenges encountered:

Some expenses were involved in the trips, in the building of the vegetable beds and in the housing facility’srenovation work. Trip expenses were paid by parents, agricultural activities were funded by the municipality and the villagers while expenses related to the housing facility were covered by the funds raised at schools’ charity fairs.

Skills acquired:

Students improved their public speaking skills, they became good team members and organizers. They also developed their capacity to use a range of online tools and social media more effectively. In addition, leadership skills were developed; teachers became facilitators which enabled students to be the prime actors in the project’s implementation. Finally, students learnt how to effectively raise funds, which is essential to any project.

Changes in attitude:

Students became more interested in social phenomena such as migration. They also learnt a lot about permaculture design approach in order to use local resources efficiently.

Impact of the Project:

This project has enhanced 3 of the 4 pillars of learning for the twenty-first century: learning to know (eradication of migration), learning to do (permaculture gardening) and learning to be (permaculture garden designers, fund-raisers).

Students demonstrated a grasp of broader perspectives and an increase in self-confidence.

The school principals became involved in the project and families lent their support.

Schools’ communities learnt about Alpagut and permaculture through presentations made by students displaying the project’s progress.

Teaching value:

Through the project’s implementation, students are learning focus and patience, cooperation, teamwork and social skills. They are gaining self-confidence as well as a sense of "being able" along with new skills and knowledge in food growing – soon-to-be vital in the 21st century. Finally, garden-based teaching addresses different learning styles and intelligences.

Contribution to the quality of education:

Emphasis is placed on communication, oral expression, behaviour and interpersonal skills, which are vital elements to be learnt throughout life.

Keys for success:

  • Team work and good contacts with other schools,

  • A climate of trust,

  • Involvement of a large number of students and their families,

  • Considerable support granted from the schools’ administrations,

  • Good organization of the project at all stages,

  • Constant contact maintained with partner schools.


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