COMDEKS Project: Datça-Bozburun Peninsula, Turkey



  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Ministry of the Environment, Japan; Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity; United Nations University (UNU)


  • 06/03/2017

  • REGION :

  • Western Asia


  • Turkey (Muğla Province)


  • The Community Development and Knowledge Management for the Satoyama Initiative Programme (COMDEKS) was launched in 2011 to support local community activities that maintain and rebuild target production landscapes and seascapes, and to collect and disseminate knowledge and experiences from successful on-the-ground actions so that, if feasible, they can be adapted by other communities throughout the world to their specific conditions. The programme provides small-scale finance to local community organizations in developing countries to support sound biodiversity and ecosystem management as well as to develop or strengthen sustainable livelihood activities planned and executed by community members themselves. The target landscape for the COMDEKS Project in Turkey is the Datça-Bozburun peninsula, located in Muğla province in the southwest of Turkey.


  • Coastal, Protected areas, Agriculture, Alternate livelihoods, Tourism


  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

  • LINK:


Summary Sheet

The summary sheet for this case study is available here.

The Landscape


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The target landscape for the COMDEKS Project in Turkey is the Datça-Bozburun peninsula, located in Muğla province in the southwest of Turkey. The Datça-Bozburun peninsula is recognized as a Key Biodiversity Area as it represents one of the most pristine Mediterranean lowland forest and coastal landscapes. The target landscape spans 247,700 ha and includes Datça and Bozburun peninsulas and their surroundings, with a northward extension covering the rich marine habitats of Gökova Bay. It is a diverse, hilly landscape with harbors and bays along its coasts. The steep cliffs prevent the expansion of the road network to some extent and provide suitable patches of habitat for wildlife.

About 90 percent of the Datça-Bozburun peninsula is protected under several natural parks, wildlife reserves, natural and archeological sites, as well as six no-fishing zones and two Special Environmental Protection Areas (Gökova SEPA and Datca-Bozburun Peninsula SEPA). Because of these protection efforts as well as the maintenance of traditional practices, the Datça-Bozburun Peninsula has preserved a healthy human-nature relationship and landscape resilience. However, due to increasing tourism and residential development, traditional practices are increasingly being abandoned; human attachment to nature is progressively weakening, resulting in degradation of the landscape and loss of heterogeneity, despite the protected status and management efforts by the state.


Biological Resources

The Datça-Bozburun peninsula is a rich trove of biodiversity. It triggers key biodiversity area criteria for seven different taxa, including plants, birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, butterflies and dragonflies, and hosts several globally endangered terrestrial species. The Mediterranean lowland forests in the area are the most pristine in the Agean region, containing evergreen shrub-lands and coastal plants such as red pine (Pinus brutia), liquid amber (Liquidambar orientalis), cypress (Cupressus sempervirens), Datça phoenix (Phoenix theoprasti).

Additionally, the Datça-Bozburun peninsula encompasses an exceptionally valuable marine and coastal area that is an important nursing ground for several marine species and a source of rare fauna, including the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus), the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) and the Sandbar shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus). On this basis, a 2,300-ha section of Gokova Bay has been designated as a Marine Protected Area.

Socioeconomic Context

The population of the target landscape exceeds 100,000 people, with high population growth due to significant migration into the area. Household income for residents of Datça-Bozburun is moderate and literacy is low. The majority of the population still depends on natural resources for their livelihoods. Today, local communities of the peninsula earn their living mainly through fishing, tourism and agriculture. Poverty and food security issues are minimal in the target landscape.

The heterogeneity of the area’s agricultural habitat is high, due to the typological, climatic, historical and cultural characteristics of the region. The warm climate, along with varying soil quality and moderate precipitation have enabled people to produce crops such as barley, almonds and olives that can thrive in modest conditions. Almonds and olives are generally produced under rain-fed conditions, based on traditional practices, often involving steep hillside terraces. This makes traditional farming an important livelihood activity for the local community.

Other commodities that contribute to local economy are wild herbs that are harvested for local markets, bee farms and fisheries. In the area, there are also efforts to cultivate salvia and oregano in order to prevent over exploitation of wild stocks. Bee-keeping is locally practiced and is now expanding into forest and grazing lands. Fishing is a major source of income for many families in the region, with women being active in the trade. Indeed, the Datça-Bozburun peninsula has the highest population of “fisherwomen” in Turkey—approximately 200 women actively fishing.

Ownership of almost all forested land belongs to the state and is managed by state authorities. Locals are free to benefit from the wood and non-timber forest products within the legal limits set by the national legislation. Locals have all the ownership and tenure rights of their own agricultural or residential land except in the situations where their land falls into protected area boundaries. There, associated legislation comes into play and land owners are free to manage the land as the protection status allows.

Key Environmental and Social Challenges

Many of the most imminent threats on the Mediterranean coast seem to appear on the Datça-Bozburun peninsula. Local traditional livelihoods are now subject to strong pressures from tourism, seasonal migration and residential development, despite the desire and potential for nature-friendly development by the local residents. Seasonal population fluctuation is high (the population increases about fivefold in the summer) due to secondary settlements and tourism. This puts additional pressure on the scarce water resources and infrastructure, which, in turn, increase pollution and cause destruction of sensitive habitats.

Attachment to the landscape by area inhabitants weakens day by day as traditional practices, which ensured the heterogeneity of the landscape for centuries, are abandoned and lands are sold to tourism developers for a handsome price. An important factor contributing to the local loss of attachment to place is the feeling by local stakeholders that they are not part of the decision-making process or management of the local protected areas, which cover a considerable portion of the peninsula.

As a result of these increasing development pressures and accompanying habitat destruction in local land and marine ecosystems, the rate of degradation of the landscape is increasing. The most troubling manifestations of this degradation are loss of local agricultural products such as fig and mastic, abandonment of traditional fishing/diving practices for higher profit activities, destruction of valuable forests, and decreasing wildlife populations. Studies also show that, despite their protected status, the population of vulnerable Mediterranean species continues to decline.

Local fisherwoman in Datça-Bozburun Peninsula, COMDEKS Turkey

In addition, recent changes in national laws regarding protected area management, as well as reorganization of administrative structures in charge of protection, have some troubling implications for the area’s parks and protected areas. Datça-Bozburun is among several protected areas that face the loss of their valuable protected status, which to date has limited threats to the landscape.

COMDEKS Activities, Achievements, and Impacts

Community Consultation and Baseline Assessment

The consultative process undertaken for the development of the COMDEKS Country Programme Landscape Strategy for Turkey brought together 42 key stakeholder representatives, including cooperatives and unions of farmers; fishermen; hotel owners and tourism operators; local residents; state authorities responsible for conservation and management of natural resources such as forests, water, protected areas, and agriculture; and municipalities and city councils. Also included were local and national NGOs working on nature conservation and agro-biodiversity, cycling, marine protection and underwater research, culture, art and sports, and academics.

The baseline assessment of the landscape situation was based on a) an interactive mapping exercise, b) a scorecard aimed at piloting the Resilience Indicators developed by the United Nations University and Bioversity International, and c) a problem tree analysis, which was based on the discussions that took place during the baseline assessment process. During the baseline assessment workshop, participants were asked to mark important assets, values, threats and conflict areas on a map of the proposed landscape. The resulting map not only provided valuable information on the key characteristics of the area, but also underlined the sensitive areas of interest, problems, opportunities and threats.

The results from the scorecard exercise revealed that all stakeholders shared similar views on two main themes: agro-biodiversity and knowledge, and learning and innovation. Although the agricultural biodiversity theme received a high score, suggesting generally a good performance of the landscape under this theme, participants were wary about the threats and the negative trends upon the agriculture sector in the target landscape.

Highest divergence in the views appeared under the ecosystems protection theme, indicating that it is one of the most controversial issues in the area. However, despite their differences in scoring, the majority of participants agreed that, given the size of the designated protected area, which is relatively large, the score should have been higher overall.

The baseline assessment clearly indicates that the resilience of the Datça-Bozburun landscape is quite good compared to other similar landscapes in Turkey. However, according to the participants, the landscape is now under severe threat, which has already started to negatively affect the landscape’s resilience and provision of ecosystem services. This was a key reason for selecting the area as the target landscape.

Landscape Strategy

Input from the baseline assessment workshop informed the design of the COMDEKS Country Programme Landscape Strategy for Turkey, a comprehensive document that profiles the target landscape and its challenges, lists expected goals and outcomes, and outlines key measure and strategies for community-based actions. Table T-1 shows the four Landscape Outcomes the strategy is expected to produce, as well as the performance indicators that will be used to measure these outcomes.

Table T-1. Landscape Outcomes and Indicators from the Turkey Landscape Strategy

Landscape Outcomes Key Performance Indicators
Outcome 1:

Improved or maintained ecosystem services, reduced land degradation/habitat loss, and species with improved conservation status through strengthened participatory land use planning and management practices.

·         Number of hectares of land (by land use type: indigenous and community conserved areas, protected areas, production landscapes-seascapes, including marine/coastal areas or fishing grounds) brought under sustainable land and resource management.

·         Number of significant species with maintained or improved conservation status.

·         Number of targeted communities implementing innovative or traditional sustainable land use management practices.
Outcome 2:

Increased resilience of agriculture in the target landscape through conservation of plant genetic resources and implementation of agro-ecological practices using traditional knowledge.

·         Hectares of land applying sustainable forest, agricultural, and water management practices.

·         Number of farmers implementing traditional and adaptive practices for agro-ecosystem and landscape management.
Outcome 3:

Livelihoods of people improved through eco-friendly community-based enterprises that reduce impacts on the ecosystem functions and scenic value of the landscape.

·         Percentage of targeted households and communities with a more secure access to livelihood assets (disaggregated by gender).

·         Increased per capita income of targeted households due to measures applied (US dollar equivalent).

·         Decrease in number of complaints and/or cases of illegal fishing.
Outcome 4:

Institutional governance mechanisms created and/or strengthened to make decisions on land use and sustainable economic development in the target peninsula through more inclusive and participatory decision making processes at the landscape level.

·         Number and type of stakeholders (gender disaggregated) participating in institutional governance mechanisms created and/or strengthened at the landscape level.

·         Number of NGOs/CBOs (or other institutional governance mechanisms) formed, reactivated or registered to address land-use planning and management issues at the landscape level.

·         Number and type of participatory decisions officially taken and adopted locally or regionally affecting the landscape.

For guidance, the Landscape Strategy provides examples of the kinds of local projects needed for each outcome:

Outcome 1:

  • Conservation and restoration activities within terrestrial and/or marine ecosystems, such as establishment of ecological buffer zones, no fishing zones, improved fire management systems, sustainable tourism, protection of sea grass beds via establishment of mooring sites, beach clean-up, etc.
  • Activities enhancing the connectivity and improving resilience of the landscape, such as re-vegetation in dry lands using native species; innovative provision of public utilities such as: rainwater harvesting, optimum land use practices for transportation, energy, etc.

Landscape poster developed during the participatory consultation, COMDEKS Turkey

  • Participatory conservation and awareness-raising activities towards priority species.
  • Activities reducing impact of seasonal population increase with a view to prevent further fragmentation and degradation of landscapes.

Outcome 2:

  • Conservation of agricultural mosaics, such as adaptation of the ancient terraces to current agricultural practices, enhancing productivity of almond and olive orchards.
  • Diversification of agricultural landscapes through agroforestry, non-timber forest products, medical plants, etc.
  • Establishment of low-input, low-carbon, non-polluting agricultural systems based on local varieties (permaculture, organic production practices, efficient use of water, rainwater harvesting, fallow, intercropping, crop rotation, etc.)
  • Sustainably managed marine/coastal areas and fishing grounds.

Outcome 3:

  • Sustainable tourism initiatives.
  • Activities reducing illegal fishing in order to sustain the traditional fishing community.
  • Improving fisher women capacity for sustainable management of the marine landscape.
  • Improving marketing of traditionally produced local varieties.

Outcome 4:

  • Awareness raising and capacity building for advocacy and participation of local people in decision-making and policy dialogue.
  • Establishment of local working groups, committees, and thematic platforms via networking, etc.
  • Awareness-raising of non-native residents to enable their participation in monitoring and evaluation of the landscape.

Community-Led Landscape Projects

To date, the COMDEKS Turkey Country Strategy has a portfolio of nine local projects, supported by small grants of US$10,000 to $38,000 to local CBOs and NGOs (see Table T-2):

Table T-2. COMDEKS Community-Led Projects on the Datça-Bozburun Peninsula, Turkey

Project Grantee (CBO/NGO) Contribution to Landscape Resilience Outcomes Description
Transition to Responsible Fishing Practices in the Datca Peninsula Underwater Research Society


Outcomes 1, 3 Using public education campaigns and direct contact with fishers, change attitudes of both fishers and fish consumers to encourage them to embrace sustainable fishing practices in local waters and respect local Marine Protected Areas. Educate consumers on responsible fish consumption and encourage restaurant owners to serve only sustainably caught fish.
Ghost Net Busters Gokova Global Sailing and Marine Sports Society


Outcomes 1, 3 Educate local fishing communities about the dangers posed by “ghost nets” (derelict nets that entrap fish and marine organisms). Locate and remove ghost nets in local waters.
Nature of Datça-Bozburun Dogma Koruma Merkezi


Outcomes 1, 4 Conduct field research to determine priority forest ecosystems in the Datça-Bozburun area and recommend specific conservation measures for inclusion in a new Forest Management Plan for the area being formulated by the General Directorate of Forestry.
Species Action Plans for Priority Mammalian Species of Datça-Bozburun Peninsula Nature Research Center


Outcomes 1, 4 Develop and apply “species conservation action plans” for priority terrestrial mammals in the area. Encourage a cooperative approach and coordinated effort between government agencies responsible for managing these species.
Knowledge Gets Richer by Sharing Local History Association


Outcomes 1, 2, 3, 4 Produce and distribute a TV documentary that depicts all local COMDEKS projects and shows how they relate to each other, in order to increase the reach of the projects, inform the local and national public about project benefits, and encourage up-scaling.
Ecosystem Sustainability, Rehabilitation, and a Start for Ecotourism at Hacet Evi Hill Hizirsah Village Agricultural Development Cooperative


Outcomes 1, 2, 3 Rehabilitate the ecosystems and renovate the cultural site at Hacet Evi Hill, a local sacred site. Initiate an ecotourism effort to promote the cultural heritage of the area.
Information Exchange and Knowledge Workshop in Datça-Bozburun Key Biodiversity Area Datça Environment and Tourism Society


Outcomes 1, 2, 3, 4 Organize a public event at which all COMDEKS projects and other similar environmental projects in the region can be publically discussed and the groups responsible for these projects can exchange information and increase their cooperation.
Fisherwomen of the Datça-Bozburun Peninsula Mediterranean Conservation Society


Outcome 3 Support the fisherwomen of the Datça-Bozburun area to recognize their unique contributions and challenges in order to educate the public about them and better meet their needs.
The Conservation, Promotion, and Fair Trade of Datça Almonds Sindi Village Agricultural Development Cooperative


Outcomes 2, 3 Conserve a unique local almond variety through organic production, and improve associated income through better harvesting, packaging, and marketing.

Organically produced local almonds provide extra income, COMDEKS Turkey

Ghost Net Hunters – contributing to sustainable seascape management, COMDEKS Turkey

Achievements and Impacts to Date

  • Improving the sustainability of local fisheries by educating fishers and consumers: Important progress was made in suppressing illegal fishing in local “No Fishing Zones” through public education campaigns around the need for sustainable fishing practices and responsible consumption of locally caught fish. As part of the project, a group of experts prepared an educational kit, including audio-visuals, to help inform fishers about responsible fishing practices. “Responsible Fisher” certificates were offered to those fishers willing to adopt such practices. The effort involved 500 fishers in 5 fishery cooperatives, fishing in 250 boats, and resulted in substantial recovery of local fish stocks. In addition, 20 restaurant owners in the region who agreed to serve only sustainably caught local fish were awarded “Responsible Restaurant” certificates to distinguish themselves as environmentally responsible. The public education effort also extended to school children, as classes were invited to participate in an outdoors educational session where images from an underwater camera were used to enhance their learning. In a separate project, the location of ghost nets (derelict nets that kill fish and marine organisms) was mapped in 5 ha of local Marine Protected Areas; 700 m of ghost nets and 5000 m of ghost fishing line were subsequently removed by volunteer scuba divers. Combined with efforts of other marine projects in the area, this has greatly improved the safety of area waters for fish and other marine organisms.
  • Increasing the visibility of local fisherwomen and improving their livelihoods and connections: Fisherwomen are an important part of the local fishing trade and significant contributors to their family’s income. However, until now there has been limited information available about the particular challenges they face. By interviewing local elders and other active fisherwomen, the profile of some 70 local fisherwomen has been raised and their social standing enhanced. Networking within the local fishery cooperatives has brought new solidarity among these women, and encouraged them to organize themselves and reach out to fisherwomen in other regions. One practical effect is that the fisherwomen have been officially added to the list of eligible groups who can seek microfinance through the Turkey Grameen Micro Credit Program. In addition, local fisherwomen have begun to participate actively in meetings of marine experts, local cooperatives and local governing bodies. In recognition of the effectiveness of these efforts, the Mediterranean Conservation Society, the local NGO responsible for leading this work, has recently received two prestigious awards: the 2014 Equator Prize, given by the Equator Initiative, and the 2013 Whitley Award, given by the Whitley Fund for Nature.
  • Increasing the income, efficiency, and sustainability of local traditional almond producers: One of the most typical and economically important traditional crops in the target landscape is the Datça almond. However, local production is threatened by its labor intensive nature and poor marketing, which compete poorly with cheaper imports. Local production efficiency has now been greatly improved by provision of a shelling machine, which has saved $11,000 in labor costs. Packaging and labeling have also been improved, and growers have formed a cooperative. Just as importantly, a program to convert farmers to organic growing methods and to certify them as organic producers to add value to the local crop has increased the number of certified growers from 7 to 20, and organic culture has been increased by 50 ha.
  • Rehabilitating a local sacred site and promoting ecotourism: Hacet Evi Hill is a well-known local sacred site near Hizirsah Village that has fallen into disrepair. A multi-pronged effort has re-established the cultural value of the site, rebuilt pathways, and revegetated the site with almond trees to prevent erosion, increase its visitor appeal, and bring some income to local residents. This, along with establishment of a visitor center, has set the ground for promoting Hacet Evi as a tourist site. In a related effort, aromatic and medicinal herbs are now being raised organically in nearby Hizirsah Village on 20 ha of village common land as an additional source of sustainable income for residents. The project was also significant for its effect on local land use policies by setting a precedent for the use of village common land for the herb-raising effort—a project that brought both environmental and economic benefits to the village
  • Promoting conservation plans for area forests and endangered mammals: Local scientists and community members acted to directly inform government conservation plans in the target area. In one project, a local nature conservation NGO organized field research to identify priority forest ecosystems in the area—such as areas containing the vulnerable oriental sweetgum tree and Datca palm trees—and recommend conservation measures. These finding were then submitted for inclusion in the new Forest Management Plan recently formulated by the General Directorate of Forestry. In another project, all the area’s priority mammals were specified, their habitat mapped, and local species action plans drawn up for their management. In addition, training in mammal conservation methods was provided for 18 government personnel involved in management of the protected areas in the landscape. Training has also been provided to members of the local nature NGO who would like to take part in monitoring conservation efforts in the area.
  • Exchanging information on local landscape projects, and building community acceptance and enthusiasm for landscape interventions: The COMDEKS project portfolio in Turkey has emphasized communicating with local community members, both to educate them about the need for action to preserve local environmental assets, cultural traditions, and livelihoods, but also to inform them of the successes already achieved through local projects and the opportunities to contribute to these efforts in the future. One part of this effort involved organizing a local festival to facilitate information exchange and communication between different groups who had undertaken projects in the area. The 2-day festival involved 16 presentations on various issues and initiatives, followed by public discussions. This allowed for a wide variety of local opinions to be heard on issues relating to the impact that the community is having on the land and seascapes. The participants left the festival informed and more aware of environmental projects happening around them. Educational booklets, DVDs, and other informational tools are now being prepared to increase the longevity and the reach of the projects around Datça-Bozburun Peninsula. In a separate effort, the eight NGOs involved in the local COMDEKS projects produced a 23-minute documentary titled “Knowledge gets richer by sharing.” Through images of the target landscapes and interviews, the documentary depicts how the projects are environmentally and culturally related to one another, enabling the audience to get a coherent picture of the COMDEKS Country Program in Turkey. This will increase the reach of the projects both locally and nationally, and encourage replication in similar landscapes. Likewise, in order to more widely disseminate information on the landscape approach in Turkey, an abstract on the combined COMDEKS efforts on the Datça-Bozburun peninsula has been submitted for presentation at the International Congress on Landscape Ecology, to be held in October 2014. Finally, the Seferihisar Nature School, located near Muğla, has been designated an education center for dissemination of information on COMDEKS Datça-Bozburun cases to nature conservationists throughout Turkey.

“Many of us had been thinking that projects do not count for much, and we were questioning whether what we were doing made sense for nature and man. However, the COMDEKS approach was different. By letting us approach the problems from various angles it helped us believe that what we were doing was more effective and would create an impact. Local communities learned many things in this regard too; they realized they could count on themselves. Also, during the implementation process, exchanges between projects and activities and local communities were very strong, because the program encouraged us to look at the land, the sea, and even a single tree and consider them all. COMDEKS embraced us all under its comprehensive, holistic approach.”

Ozan Veryeri, Underwater Research Society

Progress at the Landscape Level

The COMDEKS project portfolio in Turkey has worked extensively on two fronts within the target landscape. In the marine environment, progress has been made in pressing the case for cutting back on illegal fishing within protected waters, publicly rewarding fishers and restaurant owners who only deal in sustainably caught fish. Local physical hazards of ghost nets have also decreased. At the same time, the low social profile of women fishers in the Datça-Bozburun area has begun to be addressed. On the terrestrial side, the portfolio has contributed to conservation efforts both through its scientific work and its advocacy for management of local mammal species, while at the same time working to safeguard the traditional land use mosaic by strengthening the income profile of local almond producers and creating opportunities for cultural tourism. To tie these two different fronts of activity together, the program has taken pains to create opportunities—through events, publications, video programs, and school programs, for the public to find out about local projects and to see how they relate to each other. In the process, a peninsula-wide network is starting to form that can begin to approach present and future work at a landscape level. This network is already having an influence on the management of designated protected areas in the region. From a public policy standpoint, the scientific data, analyses, conservation assessments and knowledge products produced as part of COMDEKS activities have begun to have an effect at the landscape level, influencing the recent release of a Datça development plan and changing the level of public discussion of the plan.

Lessons Learned

  • In developing and carrying out local projects, gaining the attention of local authorities is an important consideration. If their interest can be engaged and their attention gained, it can be an enormous benefit to project planning and implementation. Failing to do this will mean that more effort and planning responsibility will fall on the local grantee.
  • An informal network has sprung up among COMDEKS grantees and communities since the baseline assessment was undertaken. However, for this network to truly be effective at organizing efforts at the landscape level and affecting policy development, it must become more formalized, visible, and accessible to local community members.
  • Sometimes, simple interventions can play a key role in the overall success of a project. For example, with regard to the project to increase the profitability of Datça almonds, it was found that the most problematic stage of production was almond peeling, which was addressed through the acquisition of a peeling machine managed by the local cooperative. The labor savings this provided allowed the other elements of the project, such as better packaging and marketing, and conversion to organic culture, to work. Careful analysis of the solution path for each project outcome is therefore crucial to ensure a successful outcome.
  • Creating a designated education center such as the Seferihisar Nature School can strengthen and amplify the dissemination of the landscape conservation methodology used in COMDEKS projects, strengthening awareness and support for existing projects and building demand for new landscape projects.

Knowledge management and public information exchange—through local programs, publications, and conferences—is essential to the development of a landscape-wide sense of identify and ownership among local communities, students, and policymakers. Only when community members understand their local assets and the benefits associated with them, and make the connection between local action and the preservation of these benefits, will landscape projects become widely accepted and sustainable. Public communication plays an essential role in making this connection, as shown by the effectiveness of the publications and outreach efforts in the Datça-Bozburun area.

Sustainable fishing in Gokova Bay, COMDEKS Turkey