The Kerkenes Eco-Center Project was initiated in 2002 with the help of the Australian Embassy Direct Aid Program. By 2003 the concept of establishing an Eco-Centre devoted to research into and promotion of renewable energy and sustainable village life was developing. The aim is to halt, and even reverse, migration from rural areas to urban centers. Advocating an environmentally friendly approach to the development and improvement of rural settlements, the project works closely with ŞAH-DER (The Kerkenes and Şahmuratlı Village Association for Public Relations, Prosperity, Help and Support), which was established in 2003 to promote the welfare of the village.
In 2004, 2005 and 2006, generous support was received from the Erdoğan M. Akdağ Foundation, the Canada Fund, the American Embassy, the Tyche/Archeocommunity Foundation (USA), Burdens Charitable Foundation (UK), New Holland Trakmak (Turkey), MESA, AKG. Help in kind is also received from the Yozgat Governorate, the Directorate of Rural Services, and the Sorgun District Governorate and Municipality. As well as seeing the completion of its first strawbale building (Fig. 4) and the Erdoğan Akdağ Center for Research and Education (Fig. 5), the Kerkenes Eco-Center Team in collaboration with ŞAH-DER conducted a very successful program for the promotion of solar energy, a drip irrigation scheme for organic gardens and pursued other ongoing programs, including solid waste separation for composting and recycling, reuse of grey-water and promotion of appropriate materials and design for energy efficient buildings. The British Council supported studies on the environmental performance of building under the Britain-Turkey Partnerships Programme between the METU Department of Architecture and the Environment and Energy Studies Programme of the Architectural Association, London. The Erdoğan Mustafa Akdağ Foundation built, the Center for Research and Education, using aerated concrete provided by AKG and roofing material given by Onduline, to host visitors, village activities, regional events and dynamic displays on archaeological and ecological activities of the Kerkenes Project.
Şahmuratlı Village possesses a world class cultural heritage site, ancient Pteria, an Iron Age mountain-top city founded on the Kerkenes Dağ. The Kerkenes Eco-Centre has piloted schemes for renewable energy and appropriate technologies against a background of climate change, socio-economic inequality and rapid depopulation of rural areas in favour of urban growth. The Kerkenes Eco-Centre experiments with appropriate building materials and energy efficient designs, drip irrigation for organic gardens, solar energy, solar drying and cooking, recycling, stimulating and creating income generating activities for both men and women.
Rural economies on the Anatolian Plateau are underdeveloped; gender inequality is rampant while opportunities for young people are limited. Development of sustainable, environmental friendly, rural economies supported by renewable energy will provide a reduced rural population with acceptable levels of comfort (appropriate dwellings) and economic security. The model offered at Kerkenes can be replicated in the Yozgat region and beyond.
The British Embassy is working to improve political commitment to a low carbon high growth economy in Turkey. A key part of this is mobilising support at local levels, which in turn will help convince the government to develop new policies at the national level. This small project makes use of an existing Eco-centre in Turkey to promote energy efficient and renewable energy designs. It brings together local officials, businessmen, MPs and villagers to stimulate more formal work at the Municipality level, greater replication of ideas in other regional areas, and an increased media awareness of how local projects fit into the bigger strategic goals on energy and climate change.