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Introductory Chapter: Understanding the Ataturk Forest Farm from an Ecological Perspective

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Mustafa Ergen, Bayram Cemil Bilgili and Yaşar Bahri Ergen

Reviewed: January 26th, 2022 Published: April 28th, 2022

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.102880

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1. Introduction

The farm that has gained a significant place in the minds of the Turkish people and has been most well-known to them since the proclamation of the republic is undoubtedly Ataturk Forest Farm. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk laid the foundations of the modern Ataturk Forest Farm, initially called Gazi Forest Farm, in 1925, 5 years after the opening of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and 2 years after the proclamation of the republic.

Following the years when Turkish people achieved epic triumphs, Ataturk Forest Farm was built during a challenging period of poverty. The Anatolian people were the main population of the Ottoman Empire and the basis of the Republic of Turkey, where 13,648,000 people [1] (76% of the population) lived in rural areas. Without a doubt, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk made the statement “Agriculture is the Basis of a National Economy” to impose the idea that the development of the Republic of Turkey should start in rural areas.

The mission of combining forestry and agriculture, two different applied sciences, was undertaken through the Ataturk Forest Farm. This mission was called the Ataturk Forest Farm because it was not solely based on farming activities and because forestry activities were more dominant than agricultural activities. Forestry and agriculture are similar disciplines but their purposes and methods are different, resembling General Surgery and Psychiatry, which both basically focus on the human body but use totally different methods and concepts. Furthermore, agricultural plans and activities are considered and conducted annually or seasonally, but forestry activities may cover a period of 100 years. Considering these differing perspectives and conditions of time, Ankara and Ataturk Forest Farm should be assessed collectively.


2. The evolution of Ankara and Ataturk Forest Farm, based on the development plan

Ankara was founded in an area that could fit into a single photo frame when it was declared the capital (Figure 1) [2].

Figure 1.

An old view from the Atatürk forest farm.

Ankara is an arid city in the middle of Anatolia, the symbol of the modern Turkish Republic and its window to the world. Ankara’s development plan and practices shaped the new form of the Turkish Republic, as well as the city itself. The development plan considered the impact on the city of biotic and abiotic factors, such as climate, fauna, flora, geology, geomorphology, and soil. Its approach also observed the impact of the city on people and the environment.

One of the most important factors here is undoubtedly the population projection, indicating how many people are estimated to be present in a certain place as well as the dimensions of this place. The number of people living in the Turkish Republic was 13,648,000 during those years, and the first census was performed for the first time after the proclamation of the republic was performed on October 28, 1927. Ankara’s urban population was 74,784, of whom 49,439 were male and 25,345 were female [3]. Since the number of people living in rural areas of the Turkish Republic was 76% of the total population, a total population of 250,000–300,000 people was estimated for the whole Ankara area.

Carl Lörcher, a German architect and planner, had prepared two separate plans for the old and new city in 1924 and 1925 for Ankara’s development between 1925 and 1930. However, the extent of his spatial planning studies and the housing conditions suggested in the plans were not adequate for forming a living area for 250–300,000 people, so a new development plan was needed. Exceeding the aforenoted population projection considered for Ankara’s development plan between 1925 and 1930 forced the city to undergo spatial expansion, and new development plans were needed. Accordingly, an international contest was held and won in 1928 by Hermann Jansen in 1928 [4].

During these years, the farms called Orman, Balgat, Yağmur Baba, Macun, Güvercinlik, Ahimesud (Etimesud) and Çakırlar, constitute 80,000 decares of Ataturk Forest Farm land (102,000 decares in total), were purchased from the relevant owners using Ataturk’s account number 2 in İş Bank [5]. By 1932, Hermann Jansen delivered the final development plans, and the surface area of Ataturk Forest Farm covered a larger area than the macro form of Ankara [6]. Ataturk Forest Farm reached its maximum size of 102,000 decares in the 1930s, but Ankara continued its urban development. This process can be described with the following comparison: Ataturk Forest Farm is greater than Ankara, and Ankara is greater than Ataturk Forest Farm from the period between 1930 and current times. Two important objectives of the Republic of Turkey: the agricultural development Mustafa Kemal conducted with Ataturk Forest Farm, and ensuring the urban development of Ankara that started with the plans of Hermann Jansen and that was based on modern and scientific grounds.

2.1 Agriculture and Ataturk Forest Farm

Agricultural development was one of the most important objectives of the Turkish Republic during the 1920s because most of the country’s total imports consisted of main food elements, such as wheat. During those years, more than half of the total exports consisted of agricultural products, such as cotton, figs, grapes, hazelnuts, and tobacco [5].

Ataturk explained his purpose in founding Ataturk Forest Farm as follows: “The basis of the national economy is agriculture. Therefore, we attribute great importance to agricultural development. The planned and practical activities that will spread into the villages will facilitate adopting this objective. However, to gain success in this purpose, a research-based agricultural policy should be formed and an agricultural regime that every villager and citizen can easily understand and practice should be established” [7]. Ataturk reveals the notion behind the establishment of Ataturk Forest Farm with this statement.

Ataturk formed a group of Turkish agricultural experts and told them that he wanted to establish a large farm in Ankara, asking them to find a suitable location. One of the experts in the group stated: “We did not need to search through the entire city of Ankara and look for different natural characteristics. The reason was simple. A medieval city in the middle of an arid steppe… No trees, water, nothing… While looking for a place to establish a farm around Ankara, we focused on the current location of the farm the least. This place was not treated kindly by nature; it looked neglected and pale and made you feel pessimistic when you looked at it. The reeds in the swamp of the land through which trains pass poisoned the urban life made the people living around appear as pale and sick and acting as a source of malaria. Eagles and vultures made nests around the land, which had nothing but an adobe house back then. There was only a thin railroad as the sign of civilization and humanity on this land. When our assessments were complete, we submitted the result to the Great Chief. Ataturk showed the current location of the farm and asked: Did you visit there? We extended our common thought that the location he pointed out had none of the qualities needed for a farm and that it was only a swamp with arid sections. He replied as follows: This is what we want. A swamp, arid, poor location around Ankara. It is up to us, rather than anybody else, to physically improve that location” [5].

Ataturk’s own words show that he targeted agricultural amendment before agricultural activities. Agricultural undertakings are accomplished by finding a suitable location for the pre-determined agricultural product and conducting agricultural activities in that location. However, as noted in the expert’s report on Ataturk Forest Farm, Ataturk wanted to correct the land for agriculture first and only later to conduct agricultural activities.

The assessments of agriculture experts were based on the probability of performing agricultural activities on the farm. After determining the location of the modern farm land, some experts claimed it was unsuitable for any agricultural activity, but some admitted that, with stringent efforts, the land could be made suitable. For instance, Schmid, an expert from the Ministry of Agriculture, stated: “This is such a plan that either patience or money will be consumed on these arid lands and in these climate conditions” [5]. His statement is supported by the detailed soil analyses provided below, which were performed in 1926. These soil analyses indicate that the activities performed at Ataturk Forest Farm were conducted in the light of the most up-to-date data at the time.

ARID SOIL (Source [8]:)

Chemistry Laboratory

Number 32/42


Sent by: Directorate of Forest Farm.

Analyzed: Soil sample.

Amount: Approximately 10 kilograms.

Result of mechanical analysis:

Main% in the soil from which water vapor is dissolved
<0.002 millimeters38.0%
0.002–0.02 millimeters33.5%
0.02–0.25 millimeters27.5%
0.25–2.0 millimeters1.0%

Source [8].

Chemical analysis:
Amount of carbon calcium4.1%
Amount of fluid solution:
Cations: Alkali ions (Na and K)2.5138%
Calcium ion (Ca)0.0337%
Magnesium ion (Mg)0.0709%
Anions: Hydrocarbon ion (HCO4)0.0419%
Chlorine ion (Cl)0.2190%
Sulfate (So4)2.2698%
Nitrate (No3)0.0845%
The main carbon amount was calculated through Na2Co30.0056%
Concentrated hydrogen ion (Ph)8.7%

Source [8].

Different experts analyzed the lands of Ataturk Forest Farm at different times, and the analyses revealed that the soil structure of the farmland was not homogeneous. Therefore, different agricultural activities were performed on the different soil types.

Agriculture is affected by all climate parameters but the amount and timing of rainfall is the most important parameter. Water should be supplied, or water resources should be accessed to supplement rainfall and sustain agricultural activities.

Accordingly, Atatürk Forest Farm interventions to access water included the following:

  1. Building a barrage to irrigate the bottomlands with water from Ince Su and Bend Lake, and opening a 10-kilometer canal;

  2. Building a large barrage to irrigate the other large section of the plain from Çubuk River, and opening a second canal, nine kilometers in length;

  3. Building a barrage to irrigate the Tahar plain from Macun and the Çubuk River, and opening another canal, 1 km in length;

  4. Building a concrete barrage to collect the surface water flowing through the Tahar strait in winter, and to irrigate the lands by collecting the underground water;

  5. Collecting the underground water in Çorak River and building a pond;

  6. Building an artificial pond on Kelek meadow to collect rainwater and underground water;

  7. Building a dam in Istanbul that is 146 meters long, and opening irrigation canals;

  8. Collecting the underground water in Çakırlar Farm through galleries, and irrigating crops in time; and

  9. Purchasing five large transportable centrifuge pumps and irrigating crops throughout the farm [5].

Using irrigation increased productivity on Ataturk Forest Farm, and agricultural activities that suited the climate and land conditions were performed in certain parts of the Farm, although the infrastructure activities mentioned before were too expensive [5]. Ankara has been a model for agricultural activities. Due to the nature of agriculture, fruit productivity at Ataturk Forest Farm falls to minimum levels and significantly varies, year by year, due to climate issues, even though conservation actions are taken” [5].


3. Forestry and Ataturk Forest Farm

Ataturk Forest Farm did not focus solely on agricultural activities; it also played a key role in growing trees that were conserved under the conditions of that era. By building a forest, a unity of life collectively formedby trees, shrubs, bushes, and herbaceous plants of a certain height, characteristics and density, kelp, Boston ferns and fungi, microorganisms living under and over the ground, and various bugs and animals, all of which can create a specific climate in the borders of the forest, is created [9].

The afforestation of Ataturk Forest Farm was greatly assisted by the Forestry School[10] opened in İstanbul in 1857. The first afforestation activity conducted in Turkey dates back to 1892. Aleppo pine, cedar, black pine, gallnut, and ash trees were planted in a 20–25 decare area. The fatigue arising from World War I and after the Turkish war of independence, the rapid occurrence of reforms, and limited financial resources, all meant little importance was attributed to forestry and afforestation till 1937. Afforestation of Ankara’s Ataturk Forest Farm was renewed after World War II when the Yalova-Termal afforestation and Tarsus-Karabucak eucalyptus forest were among the important afforestation activities [11]. Various laws enacted between 1923 and 1937 enabled performing afforestation at Ataturk Forest Farm, but no legal actions regarding the control of flooding were taken during those years [12]. The micro-climatic impact expected from the afforestation activities performed at Ataturk Forest Farm has finally been realized today, although conditions have changed since those early days. The necessity of a challenging study can still be mentioned if the soil analyses provided above are to be assessed by modern forestry and agriculture experts.

3.1 Ataturk Forest Farm being gifted to the treasury

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and his farmworkers made great efforts for 13 challenging years. At the end of this period, Ataturk thought about granting his properties and goods to the Republican People’s Party, which he founded, and he mentioned this idea during the congress of 1927 [5]. In 1937, Ataturk submitted a letter to the Speaker’s Office at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey indicating his wish to donate the Ataturk Forest Farm, and he stated [5]: “As you know, I founded numerous farms in different parts of the country at different times to gain experiences in terms of agriculture. I give all these farms which hosted various agricultural arts as well as all sorts of agricultural products produced under relevant climates during the challenging efforts lasting 13 years along with all equipment, animals, and fixtures to the treasury. A brief list indicating the lands of farms, equipment, and fixtures is attached” [7].

Ataturk mentioned the 13 years of challenging effort spent building up the farm in the letter in which he donated Ataturk Forest Farm to the treasury — and the challenge and the effort remain even under modern conditions. Humanity’s interest in (and opposition to, in certain cases) soil and climate continue to be manifested by forestry and agricultural activities. Nevertheless, it was the dedicated efforts of Ataturk and his farmworkers that turned this challenging process into a success story.

After 1937, the farmlands were managed by the government. In 1950, when Şemsettin Günaltay was the Prime Minister of Turkey, “The Law on the Foundation of Ataturk Forest Farm” was enacted. The 10th Article of the law states:

The transfer and handover of Ataturk Forest Farm as well as the real estates within the border of the farm during the time this law was enacted to natural and legal persons and expropriation of the aforenoted are subject to receiving permission through a special law. Prior to the enactment of this law,the aforenoted shall not be applied to the real estates that were soldto the official offices and organizations through the approval of the Administrative Board of State Agricultural Business Department and Ministry of Agriculture [13].

Accordingly, some sections of Ataturk Forest Farm were sold, and thus the surface area of the farmland shrank. The farm has continued shrinking physically because land from Ataturk Forest Farm was generally transferred in four ways: through a special law, through a protocol, through renting, and without law or protocol. The percentage distribution of the transferred land is as follows [14]:

Distribution of transferred lands(%)
National Ministry of Defense65%
Various public institutions and organizations and universities22%
Metropolitan Municipality of Ankara8%
Worker houses, farmers, different building societies5%

Parts of Ataturk Forest Farm continued to be transferred for approximately 100 years. This was because a population of 250–300,000 people was estimated when planning the development of Ankara in the 1930s, but the actual figures were much higher. The most unexpected result of this process is that Ankara now has a population of more than 5.5 million people. This unexpected population increase put pressure not only on Ataturk Forest Farm but also on other natural resources. What would Hermann Jansen, the person who created the development plan of Ankara in the 1930s, say when he was told that the population of Berlin where he resided would remain at 3.5 million even after a century but that Ankara, the arid city in the middle of Anatolia, would have 5.5 million people 100 years later? Considering the conditions of the era, neither Jansen nor anybody else would believe such a claim. While this unexpected population growth expanded Ankara, it shrank Ataturk Forest Farm. The process started during the era of Ataturk’s contemporaries after Ataturk passed on. This transformation was not directed against Ataturk Forest Farm; instead, it was conducted in conjunction with efforts to maintain and improve the Republic of Turkey.

3.2 Ecological impacts of Ataturk Forest Farm

The transformation of urban spaces undoubtedly causes changes in environmental processes. In a 2009 study by Bilgili, the temperatures at different areal and green locations of Ankara were measured by fixed and mobile climate stations. Ataturk Forest Farm was statistically shown to be cooler than the built-up areas around Altınpark, Gençlik Parkı and Kurtuluş Parkı and was also cooler than the other green areas. The scientific findings varied according to the green areas, the micro-scale climate change caused by tall trees with large petal leaves in and around Ataturk Forest Farm, and the spatial (size), structural (pattern and plant cover), and temporal (phenological periods) traits of green areas. Therefore, the contribution of green areas to an urban ecosystem is a dynamic process caused by the collective impact of these areas’ spatial, structural and temporal traits, and it changes over time. According to the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, the plant cover of Ataturk Forest Farm, and of the forests surrounding the agricultural areas there, have a linear form, distinctively separate from the agricultural areas [15].

The trees planted approximately a century ago still have an impact on the climate parameters of Ankara in current times. Because it is in the center of the city, Ataturk Forest Farm’s spatial traits that will create Ankara’s green area system for the next century should be reassessed at this point.


Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Written By

Mustafa Ergen, Bayram Cemil Bilgili and Yaşar Bahri Ergen

Reviewed: January 26th, 2022 Published: April 28th, 2022