Turkish Restaurant Chain Breaking the Cycle of Poverty for Female Farmers

Turkish hospitality company BigChefs, which endeavours to source its food and other products locally in Turkey, has joined Business Call to Action with a commitment to increase the number of its low income women agricultural producers to 80, and provide them with mentorship on issues like logistics, packaging and alike by 2021.  

Launched in 2008, BCtA aims to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by challenging companies to develop inclusive business models that engage people with less than US$10 per day in purchasing power (in 2015 dollars) as consumers, producers, suppliers and distributors. It is supported by several international organizations and hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

BigChefs, which operates 50 restaurants in all major cities of Turkey and abroad, engages small scale female agricultural producers, many of whom are low-income, across Turkey in its supply chain. Under its unique From the Women of the Soil to the Tables initiative, the company is working towards having its entire supply chain of applicable product categories provided by women. The initiative was launched in 2018 with just 14 female suppliers, which it aims to grow to 80 by 2021.

BigChefs targets women who are based in rural areas with a daily income of less than 50 TL (USD $8.50), who rely on soil and crops for their living and strive to meet the other needs of their families / households as well.  Their age averages between 30 and 50. They reside in various regions of Turkey, such as Marmara, Aegean, Mediterranean and South East Anatolia and are engaged in natural farming. BigChefs encourages these women not just to supply to them, but to create new markets via various distribution channels. Their monthly income from BigChefs is around 2,500 TL (USD $433).

The company aims to double the number of women it engages every consecutive year and ensure the number of female suppliers make up at least 10 percent of its total producers in the relevant product ranges. 
This project is part of Big Chef’s overall efforts raise awareness about value and opportunity in employing low-income women in Turkey. To increase the visibility of its suppliers, BigChefs integrates logos of its female producers’ products in BigChefs’ menus, and the company’s website also features pop-ups, videos and informative stories about its suppliers. 

“At the beginning of the menu there is a separate, specific chapter in order to explain the story of the journey from farm to table. With this promotion, the company also provides sales channel for the women, so apart from BigChefs, the female producers could also sell the products externally. With the products, the company develops dishes and introduces them to the guests,” says Osman Cenk Akın, BigChefs CEO. 
While the cost of the products supplied from them is slightly higher compared to conventional suppliers, BigChefs believes this margin is with the benefits that the social impact of this initiative bring.  

“If it wasn’t for BigChefs, these women would be stuck in a cycle of poverty and be unable to meet their families’ basic needs. The BigChefs cooperation not only enables them to receive a regular and reliable income, it’s also creating opportunities to be introduced to different buyers and to sell their products in other markets around Turkey,” said Sahba Sobhani, acting Heaf of Business Call to Action.

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