Seeds of Knowledge

UNDP Georgia Pankisi
Musa Usmanov in a shoe-making shop. Photo: Daro Sulakauri/UNDP

Isolda Kitesashvili became a farmer to help her family out of extreme poverty. She used to be a doctor in Kakheti, until the early 1990s when she and her husband both lost their jobs. To survive, she became farmer. She knew nothing about farming and for several years Isolda was barely able to make a living.

In 2008, when UNDP opened an agriculture centre in Kachreti to help farmers, Isolda immediately joined in.

With assistance from the centre, Isolda improved her farming so much that her fruit garden is now being used as a model for others to come and see when learning new farming methods.

Highlights

  • Farms that receive assistance from the Agriculture Extension Centers increase their income by at least 55 percent
  • More than 2,000 farmers across Georgia receive help and education in the extension centers
  • Education and new farming technologies bring hope to farmers and breathe new life into Georgian villages

"I spent 30 years being a doctor. I still miss that part of my life but I see the future in being a successful farmer,” Isolda says.

More than half of the workforce in Georgia are farmers or work in agriculture, but the agriculture sector is still weak and segmented, contributing no more than ten per cent to the national economy. Introducing agriculture services throughout the country has the potential to help reform Georgia’s agriculture sector.

UNDP initiated the establishment of the first agriculture extension centre in the region of Kakheti in 2008. Small farmers of the region were badly hit by the 2006 Russian import ban on Georgian wines and needed assistance and advice on crop and livestock production.

The extension centre was established under the local professional college to ensure high quality of consultancy services.

The first three years showed unquestionable success of the extension programme. The effectiveness and income of the first 183 member farms increased by at least 55% and more and more farmers became interested.

After success in Kakheti, in cooperation with UNHCR and with funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), UNDP expanded its support to the other regions of Georgia, including the Pankisi region, home to approximately 10 thousand Chechen refugees.

Musa Usmanov is a refugee from Chechnya. Today, with his wife Rosa and their three children, he lives in a refugee centre.  Musa makes a living by fixing shoes, but he dreams of starting his own cattle farm in the near future. He hopes the agriculture centre will provide him with help and expertise he needs to become a good farmer.

"The consultations I attended were really useful. I would love to breed cattle, but I don’t think I have enough knowledge and experience at the moment. I am consulting with the agriculture centre and hope my dream will soon come true,” Musa says.

More than 2 thousand farmers in Georgia receive help and education through UNDP programmes. The agriculture centers are merged with professional colleges and vocational education sites. This ensures quality consulting and professional experience of instructors.   

Many Georgian farmers seize every opportunity to leave their villages and move to cities. Education and new farming technologies could bring hope to farmers like Isolda and Musa, and breathe new life into Georgian villages.

November 2011