Renewable energy, environmental tourism and bio-farming were in focus of a media tour to the Machakheli gorge on 20-21 September, organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in cooperation with the Agency of Protected Areas.
Journalists from the lead Georgian print and broadcasting media visited the National Park and nearby villages, learning about a complex assistance provided by UNDP and the Global Environmental Fund (GEF).
The media tour participants met Munkhtuya Altangerel, Deputy Head of UNDP in Georgia, and Toma Dekanoidze, Deputy Head of the Agency of Protected Areas. They also interviewed representatives of the Machakhela National Park administration and residents of the Machakheli gorge villages – Chkhutuneti, Ajara Aghmarti, Tskhemlara and Chikuneti.
A four-year initiative in the Machakheli gorge promoted sustainable management of the Ajara protected areas and local economic growth of the villages located in a support zone of the Machakhela National Park. UNDP and GEF initiative also laid the ground to the potential cooperation between the Ajara protected areas and Jamili Biosphere Reserve in Turkey that together form a chain of unique natural reserves established to protect Colchis forests.
With a total budge of USD 1.3 million, this initiative has been implemented in 2014 – 2018 in partnership with Georgia’s national Agency of Protected Areas, local authorities, businesses and communities.
Some concrete results of the four-year work include a demarcation of the Machakhela National Park boundaries, rehabilitation of its administrative premises and visitors’ centre, arrangement of hiking tracks and preparation of print, audio and video kits for tourists. In addition, UNDP and GEF carried out a comprehensive research to support the future development of the National Park – a feasibility study, forest inventory and an assessment of potential revenue sources.
UNDP and GEF assistance also benefitted the villages located in a support zone of the National Park. Local households engaged in a renewable energy programme that will benefit up to 100 families in 2019. Small farmers received technical assistance and consultations in wine-making, beekeeping and other agricultural businesses. A livestock insurance programme and the instalment of electric fences helps the farmers to reduce the livestock loss caused by predators. Several families have been trained in touristic management and received a start-up support to open family guesthouses.
The initiative in the Machakhela National Park is part of UNDP’s wider assistance to Georgia which aims to expand the country’s access to green solutions and make environmental issues an integral part of development.
Sophie Tchitchinadze, UNDP in Georgia, +995 599 196907, firstname.lastname@example.org