Mobilizing Harmonious Communities: Durukan’s Changemaker Journey
Durukan’s journey to discovering how people live in balance with nature through regenerative agriculture began in his teens when he began to mobilize his peers to build an eco-community. These early experiences while young were prescient to Durukan’s career as a leading social entrepreneur.
A leader of regenerative agriculture in Turkey:
Rural areas across Turkey are losing both their soil productivity to harmful agricultural practices and their population to large urban areas. In response, social entrepreneur and Ashoka Fellow Durukan Dudu (elected in 2017) is bringing a fresh approach to farming and rural life. He is advancing regenerative farming, a technique that prioritizes topsoil and thus mitigating climate change, biodiversity, the water cycle, and the overall ecosystem, while connecting farmers and young people through alternative markets and supply-chains.
His grassroots movement and organization, Anatolian Grasslands, combines the human, environmental, and economic elements of building a multi-stakeholder ecosystem that impacts producers and consumers, government bodies and farming organizations. While linking all types of farmers, from traditional farmers and urban conscious consumers, Durukan and his team have engaged 10,000 people around regenerative agriculture, supplying and creating demand for sustainably regenerative sourced food. He is also exciting young people to join the profession, reversing the migration patterns of the younger generations to urban centers. The result is a mutually enriching relationship between humans and nature by valuing sustainability and productivity of rural agricultural communities in everyday farming practices.
In doing so, Durukan promotes a way of farming that not only enriches the soil, but also enhances village communities’ attractiveness and vitality, reshaping rural life in Turkey. His journey to changemaking began when he was a teenager learning how to mobilize a community and activate other young people before the age of 20. These experiences while young set him on a path to a lifetime of changemaking where many solutions rely on young people to join in and lead.
Embracing his power while young:
When Durukan Dudu recalls his childhood, he remembers being a hardworking student with a strong sense of curiosity and responsibility. As early as his elementary school years, he was highly skeptical of content in textbooks. Frequently, he challenged his teachers in classes, sometimes even prompting them to consult professors for confirmation. He loved playing strategy games to assess situations and see how he could transform them with limited resources.
At the age of 11, despite a dramatic reversal of his family’s financial situation in the weeks before his middle school entrance exam – one that would determine his future – he showed formidable resilience. Not only did he persevere, but he placed 24th in the entire country on the exam. This achievement brought immense joy and relief to his family during a difficult time, and Durukan felt a strong sense of commitment to the people around him.
Durukan’s commitment to those around him blossomed into a social responsibility that accompanied him into his teenage years. During school breaks, he would often visit his grandparents in the countryside to help them with harvesting. Spending time in the fields and taking walks in the mountains, Durukan realized humans are responsible for creating harmony with nature, not the other way around. These moments in the countryside were highly impressionable and solidified his conviction that people need to orient their lives on a more ecologically and socially responsible path.
Mobilizing other young changemakers:
At 16, Durukan mobilized his friends into a team of “Rangers” who explored their environment together and acted locally. Instead of solving a specific problem, his vision was to create a harmonious community for people to connect with nature and each other. Though at the time he had yet to formally study social enterprise, ecology, or sustainability, Durukan was cultivating this knowledge and expertise through practice. For example, the Rangers adopted a rotational leadership style, sharing power and responsibilities equally. Together they wrote a manifesto, highlighting their guiding principles as a team.
Whenforming his team, Durukan looked for people who gravitated to his idea and let them define their own functions instead of assigning them specific roles. This structure allowed the team to unleash their individual potential within the organization. In forming the Rangers, he relied on the group’s intellectual abilities to build something new, instead of replicating other models. This approach gave him a foundation of confidence that continues to shape his work today.
Durukan’s older cousin, who grew up with him, was the first person involved with the Rangers. He was Durukan's earliest ally; any time Durukan proposed a new idea, no matter how novel or risky, his cousin encouraged him to pursue it. Durukan also recruited his younger sister to join the group, and today both his cousin and his sister are the backbone of his current organization, Anatolian Grasslands.
“Failing is so easy when you are young. [...] If you are thinking about the career and future of your kid, let them try something crazy with a high percentage of failure when they are young and willing to do it. That’s the perfect investment.”
At first, Durukan’s parents were skeptical of his desire to create the Rangers' eco-community. However, he took it upon himself to convince them of its importance through his team and leadership. His dedication eventually shifted their mindset towards a view of confidence and support.
A commitment to harmonious communities:
The Rangers’ manifesto, centered around living in harmony with nature, guided him to where he is today. His early work with the Rangers gradually evolved into a journey dedicated to sustainable agricultural and rural living, which led him to found Anatolian Grasslands. Durukan enables teams of farmers in rural Turkey to bring back soil fertility through regenerative agriculture and connect to markets and supply chains to ensure economic success.
In the early stages of this venture, he moved back to his grandparents' village and leased land from them. On this land, he created the first regenerative agricultural learning site. Now in his 30s, Durukan is a dedicated eco-entrepreneur with a founding role in over five environmental startups, including Anatolian Grasslands, Turkey’s first ecologically regenerative and grass-fed animal products’ brand, Turkey’s first online daily green newspaper, and various green NGOs domestically and abroad. He also works as an international consultant for UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Asian countries.
Reflecting on his journey, Durukan believes that it is critical for young people to try and fail often so they can get comfortable with failure and not fear it. He sees “failures” as an inevitable part of life-long learning simply a potential outcome of experimentation. Durukan thinks adults should be mindful of how often they step in and directly support. While offering guidance, he believes adults should provide developing changemakers the space to create, experiment, and fail on their own terms. In this environment, young changemakers can discover their power to create solutions for a brighter future for us all.
This story was written by Carson McBain and Feier Zhao.