Mozzarella gives Turkish rural women new livelihood


Far from the Mediterranean centers of production of Italy’s famous export cheese, mozzarella, a group of women in southeastern Turkey aspire to raise awareness of their own brand and earn more income on the side. ‘Mandarella’, named after the Turkish word for buffalo, is currently only available in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, but a women’s cooperative focused on its production will soon be established to market the cheese in the world.

With the cooperation of a local buffalo herders’ union, Dicle University in the province, an agricultural research center and the provincial directorate of agriculture, the women are being trained in mozzarella production. Currently, 48 women between the ages of 18 and 45 are undergoing training for the project which also aims to boost dairy production in Diyarbakır, a major buffalo breeding center in Turkey. The women chosen come from rural neighborhoods that thrive on agricultural production and animal husbandry. Once their training is complete, they will join the cooperative.

The women will also receive their own cheese production kits as well as cheese production certificates. Professor Aydın Vural, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences at Dicle University, said he wants the trainees to achieve quality standards in cheese production and after the training, they are qualified enough to start. their own business or work in other businesses.

Yezdan Uzunoğlu, veterinarian and coordinator of the project, explains that most of the women were amateur cheesemakers but are now learning how to produce mozzarella. “Our goal is to convert at least half of the buffalo milk produced in Diyarbakır into mozzarella within three years and introduce it to local and international markets,” he said. Along with production, women are trained in the creation and management of a cooperative. “Mandarella may also be available on Italian store shelves,” he added.

Ayten Katar says she has been involved in cheese making since childhood, but the training made her a “professional”. “We’re good at producing local flavors and now we’re getting to know mozzarella. So far we are doing well. Women can achieve anything once they learn,” she says. Hatice Bakar, who comes from a family of buffalo herders, says the training gave her a new way to improve her “skills”. “If the Italians can do it, we can do it too,” she said.

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