How can hazelnuts save a life? The answer to this question is found in the experience of a consultant who helps with the filbert (hazelnut) industry in Turkey.

Turkey’s Historic Filbert Industry

Turkey produces about 75% of the world’s filbert (hazelnut) crop. Their antiquated industry is operated by roughly 400,000 family farms that have run their farms the same way for centuries. Most of these family farms haven’t learned and implemented modern techniques of pruning, composting, irrigation, fertilizing, hedging, and nursery use, although they are open to learning such things. Because of the inefficiencies of their way of farming and competing in modern markets, they struggle to survive.

In on such region, a hazelnut expert began sharing his expertise with the farmers, teaching them some of these modern techniques. A light dawned on the horizon; things began to change. By sharing his knowledge in culturally appropriate ways, this consultant equipped local farmers to harness more effective methodologies. Soon the farmers began to produce a higher yield and better quality of crops. Life was improving.

One day my agronomist friend, Dave, was visiting this hazelnut consultant in Turkey. In the middle of a discussion on improving the local hazelnut industry, the consultant suddenly pointed to a young girl working in the field and said, “See that little girl over there?”

He went on to share that just a few days prior, the girl’s father had told him that improving their hazelnut farming had saved his daughter’s life. He said, “I now don’t have to sell my daughter to the human trafficking trade in this area, because I have a job which sustains my family.”

The Reality of Human Trafficking in Impoverished Regions

You might be shocked at the idea of a father selling his daughter into modern slavery. Unfortunately, to the desperate, impoverished parent who sees no way to feed their children, selling their children to human traffickers is a last resort survival tactic. This is especially true among girls, as daughters are often considered less valuable than sons and have fewer ways to contribute financially to the family.

This father’s story is not an isolated or uncommon one. There are more than 29 million people in the modern slave trade today. 60,000 of modern day slaves live in the United States. Though at least 167 countries have slaves, some 70% of enslaved people live in a mere 10 countries.

Modern day slavery can take many forms – organ trafficking, forced labor, indentured servitude, sex trafficking, child labor, and more. In each of its variations, people are violently reduced to property and tradable goods, and those with power prey on the vulnerable. The human trafficking is characterized by manipulation, coercion, and oppression.

The global slave trade may receive less attention and be harder to see than it was 150 years ago. But slavery is still one of the greatest threats to human rights and global development today. If you’re still not convinced, check out these global slavery facts.

Combating Human Trafficking Means Combating Vulnerability

To combat human trafficking and modern slavery, we must combat the vulnerability and despair that make people easy targets for traffickers. Giving people access to education – whether it is job training, primary school, or teaching farming techniques—and creating good jobs and real opportunities for people to rise above poverty are essential to these efforts.

In the hazelnut farmer’s story, the consultant offered the father these two vital things: education and opportunity. He educated him on modern practices and how to run a better business. He gave him opportunity because the father was now in a position to make a living, work a good job, and even create jobs for others through his expanding hazelnut industry. The consultant helped him see that his business could actually be viable. He could provide for his family. He did have dignity and value to offer. He had options. He could have the upper hand.

And if he could rise above the extreme desperation and vulnerability of poverty, he could save his family from human trafficking.

This consultant did not set out to be a social entrepreneur. He did not go to Turkey to grow a social enterprise industry. He simply wanted to use his expertise to educate people and create better opportunities for them. It is pretty simple really. He was blessed with a skill that he realized could be used to help people in poverty. The net result of the work of one well-meaning filbert consultant was profitability, changed lives, and the ability to keep a little girl out of the hands of human traffickers.

The question for you today is this: what skills, experiences, or opportunities do you have to offer someone education and opportunity that could help lift someone out of vulnerability? How can you contribute to creating jobs, bringing education, and empowering people in underprivileged communities? How can you affirm the dignity and value of another human being and their contribution to society?


For further reading on modern slavery and human trafficking, check out the following resources:
Free the Slaves

Polaris Project

Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

A Path Appears, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn