Tanfer Dinler
Ashoka 2017'ten beri   |   Turkey

Tanfer Dinler

Agricultural Insurance Foundation
Tanfer Dinler has been the driving force in safeguarding the future of Turkey’s agriculture industry and ensuring full economic citizenship in rural population with his beneficiary focused and multi…
Devamını oku
This description of Tanfer Dinler's work was prepared when Tanfer Dinler was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2017.


Tanfer Dinler has been the driving force in safeguarding the future of Turkey’s agriculture industry and ensuring full economic citizenship in rural population with his beneficiary focused and multi stakeholder insurance policy models. Currently more than 6 million people benefit from his work with government and he has opened up a brand-new market for insurance companies to connect with farmers, creating a unique hybrid value chain and an innovation which has found its way from the fields of rural Turkey to the financial centers of Europe.

After 30 years of work in the field, he is still travelling around rural Turkey to spot the local needs and accelerate the new enterprises.

The New Idea

Observing the problems of agricultural sector from very early ages, Tanfer realized the importance of risk management in rural areas and developed the idea for a mechanism to equip farmers with both knowledge on risk management and an insurance system that would meet the special needs of life in the rural areas. Through the two big organizations he started, he equipped both the state and the private sector institutions with a holistic approach on farmer centric risk management models.

Playing the role of a ‘trusted broker’ between rural citizens and big monolithic institutions, he first convinced private insurance firms and then public institutions to pursue small farmers as a new consumer population. Holding the benefit of the farmers above all, Tanfer Dinler has built a unique hybrid value chain of agricultural insurances which has boosted the livelihoods of the rural poor in Turkey and has become a win-win-win model for public institutions, farmers and private insurance companies alike.

Upon the adoption of his model by the government and the idea of farmer friendly insurance and education packages becoming the norm for private sector, Tanfer was able to hugely diminish risks and damages involved with agriculture sector and rural life for small farmers. The success and reach of his model in Turkey has since led to 26 European and MENA countries with similar agricultural economies. He is still working on innovations on agricultural risk management systems including a new health insurance model for all farmers of Turkey.

The Problem

During the 1980s, when Tanfer Dinler first entered the scene, 50% of employed people were working in agriculture and half of the population were living in rural areas. There were no programs to train farmers on how to manage risks and subsequently financial literacy was low and sustainable long–term financial planning impossible. This incapability of managing risk also meant that when extreme weather or unexpected financial downturns happened, families were completely unprepared. Crops were perishing due to unexpected rains in the spring - -, animals were suffering from epidemics, insurances policies covered none of this and were completely incommensurate with the risky nature of the sector, meaning farmers were always just one step away from financial ruin.

This lack of stability also exacerbated the already rapidly accelerating unplanned migration from rural to urban in the 1980s. As the productive population was dragged to the magnetic draw of the big cities, no interventions were able to dig into the root structural economic causes of this to tackle the huge loss in agricultural production value which was occurring.

Today, 25% of country’s workforce is still working in the agricultural production and Turkey is the 7th biggest producer of agricultural products all around the world. Before Tanfer’s intervention however, private companies had not seen this huge market potential of rural areas and none of them put aside any budget at all to support innovations in the sector.

The Strategy

In his younger years, Tanfer initially focused on direct capacity building for farmers themselves, raising awareness on risk management, he brought together villagers during nights -when they were not busy with agricultural activities- and conducted trainings. He also worked with farmers to build cooperatives and solidarity networks to support each other in not only risk management but also in many issues including seed exchange, knowledge sharing, and financial support.

He soon realized however that the mass scale transformation he was envisioning would require a very different approach, that however capable at risk management Turkey’s farmers became through his work, without the systemic framework in place to support them, his efforts would be in vain. He then set out to build a collaborative multi-stakeholder movement that would change both mindsets and policies.

Seeing the huge untapped potential of the rural market for insurance companies, he set up a foundation ‘Agricultural Insurance Foundation’ and thanks to an innovative organizational structure, he managed to reach many companies and convince them of this potential. Showcasing his ideas and methods with early adopters, he eventually engaged all companies in the sector to design a suite of insurance policies according to the needs of small farmers, covering health, crops and livestock.

As the last, but the most important step of his strategy, Tanfer founded TARSIM (Agricultural Insurance Pool of Turkey) together with The Ministry of Agriculture of Turkey. Thanks to his prior work in the field, he worked hand in hand with the government to initiate a state-sponsored insurance system which has since become a multimillion dollar market. Since the foundation of TARSIM, 6 million policies have been insured and over 1 billion dollars have been paid out to farmers for their losses, effectively mitigating economic shocks and spurring economic growth in rural communities As a result of this success Tanfer was invited to many countries including Spain and Switzerland to innovate/create their agricultural risk management mechanisms. He is currently working on new tools of health insurance for farmers.

The Person

Raised as a true ‘volunteer of earth’, Tanfer believes deeply in the power of local values. Starting from his childhood, he used every opportunity to speak against the injustices in agricultural production and persuaded many farmers including his father to adopt his rules of agricultural ethic which was mainly based on the ways of productions that are respectful to both nature and society.

As a teenager Tanfer made a dramatic decision, he left a prestigious place at one of the best universities in Turkey (Middle East Technical University, Computer Engineering Program) to study Agricultural Engineering and travel around the country to better understand the challenges rural communities face. Covering all his costs from his own pocket, he went from one village to another, meeting the local people and putting himself in their shoes.

Spending most of his time in his old truck, he is still travelling across Turkey to observe current problems and support local innovators in the field to scale their solutions. As a result of his dedication to improving life of small farmers and their families, Tanfer enjoys huge fame and respect in rural Turkey and mentors upcoming innovators, also including Ashoka Fellows, who share his passion for a better rural life and agriculture in Turkey. He has left such a legacy that although it is a rare name, there are lots of boys named “Tanfer” after him in Turkey’s villages in all corners of the country.

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