Syria: Age-Old Traditions bring New-Age Solutions

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The Altınözü valley is Turkey’s largest olive growing region.

On the southern tip of Turkey there’s a verdant valley named Altınözü. Among the rolling hills and olive trees as far as the eye can see, humanity and cooperation is heard in beautiful tones of Turkish and Arabic. This agricultural region is also home to a Syrian refugee camp sheltering more than thirteen hundred refugees from Syria who have been warmly welcomed by their Turkish neighbors when the conflict drove families from their homes. Even before the war in Syria, Arabic was spoken here making the transition easier for the refugees.

Syrian Refugees help to bring in the olive harvest in Turkey.

Syrian Refugees help to bring in the olive harvest in Turkey.

We visited during olive harvesting time and witnessed the refugees help bring in the harvest as a means of surviving away from their own homes and farms in Syria. There’s also something relatively new happening in this largest olive growing region of Turkey, and Mercy-USA is happy to tell the story as it will benefit the families we help who have been left behind in Syria.

Olive oil production and unintended potential harm to the environment

The byproduct of olive oil production­—a kind of a mash of skins and pits­­—has traditionally been put into sludge pits as waste. Because the waste is highly acidic and saline, it can potentially harm the environment, including the groundwater. We visited an olive oil plant in Altınözü where a new fuel, called Prina in Turkish is manufactured at the end of the olive oil production cycle. The olive oil waste is made into a cleaner-burning and more efficient fuel that is used in stoves instead of wood or coal.

Prina fuel is produced in large logs as seen here, or in small pellets as seen below. The Prina is made at the same plant where extra virgin olive oil is produced making it efficient and better for the environment.

Prina fuel is produced in large logs as seen here, or in small pellets as seen below. The Prina is made at the same plant where extra virgin olive oil is produced making it efficient and better for the environment.

Prina Fuel, Stoves and a Warmer Winter for Syrians

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These stoves and four months’ supply of the new Prina fuel pellets will be distributed to families in need in Aleppo this winter.

This fuel is becoming popular in Turkey because of its overall efficiency, and near net-zero ecological impact, but probably due to the war, this heating fuel was not utilized or known in Syria until now. After seeing the incidents of acute respiratory infections account for over half of the patient visits to our Aleppo clinic among infants and children under five this last year, we are installing stoves that will warm a family’s main sleeping room with this sustainable, eco-friendly fuel. We’ll be delivering four months’ supply of Prina so that babies and children will be warm through the coldest winter nights. We hope we can alleviate some of the misery and illness that has been plaguing families, especially children each winter since this crisis began, with the added benefit of introducing a better fuel to the community.

You can sponsor a heating unit and one month’s fuel for a family home in Aleppo for $185. A donation of $105 will provide a month’s worth of eco-friendly Prina fuel to heat one family home for a month.

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Learn about all our projects in Syria here. 

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