Seeds of Knowledge
Isolda Kitesashvili became a farmer to help her family out of poverty. She used to be a doctor in Kakheti until early 1990s when she and her husband both lost their jobs. Isolda started farming to survive. She had no knowledge of agriculture and first was barely able to make a living.
In 2008, UNDP opened an agriculture extension centre in Isolda’s neighboring village of Kachreti to help farmers learn about new farming technologies. Isolda immediately saw the opportunity and joined in.
With assistance from the centre, she made her fruit garden famous in the neighborhood. Farmers from all over the region would come to see the new varieties of blackberry and get advice about farming methods.
"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.
Small farmers make around half of the workforce in Georgia but the sector of agriculture is still weak and segmented, contributing no more than 10 percent to the national economy. Educational service for farmers can help increase their income and, in the long run, contribute to reforming and modernising Georgia’s agriculture.
UNDP established 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 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 percent and more and more farmers became interested.
After success in Kakheti, UNDP teamed up with UNHCR and the Government of Switzerland to expand its support to the other regions of Georgia, including Pankisi Gorge, home to approximately 10 thousand of Chechen refugees.
- Agriculture extension service increases farmers' income by at least 55%.
- More than 2,000 farmers across Georgia receive help and education in the extension centers.
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.