The concept of environment was first mentioned in the world literature at the Stockholm Conference in 1972. However, the environment and sustainability concepts as we understand them today stepped into our lives at the United Nations Environment and Sustainable Development Conference in 1992. Two distinguished businessmen of Turkey, Hayrettin Karaca, and A. Nihat Gökyiğit decided to have Turkey gain these concepts, still very new in the international arena, and to bring an organized way to nature protection, to which they devoted their lives. Erosion and combat with desertification had started to become urgent issues to be intervened in Turkey. Therefore, these two nature lovers discussed the sensitivity of the issue with the other leaders of the business world and on September 11th, 1992 they established The Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion, Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats.
Their aims were to demonstrate that erosion and desertification, threatening our lands, could be combatted, to attract attention to the danger, to hold onto the land, to carry out deforestation, to protect the natural habitats, and to provide that this combat would be a government policy.
In order to reach this aim, they started to explain to the public and to the decision makers that actually erosion is not the fate and that erosion could be combatted by protecting our land and through reforestation. They aimed at making this combat for protecting the natural assets to be a grassroots movement and they attached priority to the volunteers, who would be at the core of this fight. They started their journey for nature as the Founding Honorary Chairs of the TEMA Foundation and in a short time, they became Grandpa Earth and Grandpa Leaf for all nature lovers.
The slogan of the TEMA Foundation “Turkey Should Not Be Allowed to Become a Desert” had significant reactions from the public in that era. It was the first time that the danger of desertification in our country was voiced loudly.
In a short time, the number of volunteers and supporters of the TEMA Foundation started to increase. Grandpa Earth and Grandpa Leaf’s hearts started to beat together with thousands of other hearts, beating for nature. With these people;
- The Pasture Law and Soil Protection Law were enacted in Turkey.
- Today in the 81 cities of Turkey there is at least one forest that has been formed by the TEMA Foundation donators. Since 1992 up to the present we have caused to meet 38 million young trees in an area as big as approximately 44.686 thousand football fields. We have planted 700 million acorns in an area as big as 22 thousand football fields.
- Up to the present we have reached more than 5 million children with nature training and works of awareness. We have developed modern nature education programs for all levels of education. Millions of children and hundreds of thousands of adults benefited from our educational programs and became acquainted with the ecological literacy concept. We have millions of children, who received nature education from the TEMA Foundation 20-25 years ago and have become our volunteers, donators, and supporters today.
- In every city of Turkey we have hundreds of thousands of volunteers and supporters, 81 city representatives, responsibilities in more than 320 districts and Young Tema Associations in about 150 universities.
- Up to the present we have realized 376 rural development, protection, and reforestation projects.
- We have reached more than 50 thousand teachers and more than 35 thousand public officials.
- There are scientific reasons for the benefit of nature beneath all steps and all appeals we have taken to protect natural assets. Therefore, we have won 166 lawsuits out of 283 that we opened or got involved. Tens of lawsuits, in which we are involved, are in progress.
- We have brought in about 100 books related to the environment for the public.
- Today, there is a TEMA Foundation perception that is known by almost the whole public and that is identified with volunteering, trust, trees, nature and combat for protection of natural assets. In 2012 as the Foundation, we were awarded the “Land for Life” award, which was granted for the first time in the World in the leadership of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and for which states were also nominated besides many Non-governmental Organizations. We have the honor of representing Turkey in the management of various significant associations such as the European Environmental Bureau, DRYnet and UNCCD Civil Society Panel. We still have a lot to do and a long way to go in order to protect natural assets. We continue to work for nature with the support of our volunteers and donators.
You can hear the story of the TEMA Foundation from our Founding Honorary Chairs Grandpa Earth Hayrettin Karaca and Grandpa Leaf A. Nihat Gökyiğit.