The results of a robust intervention supporting renewable energy, environmental tourism and bio-farming in the Machakheli gorge were presented at a summary conference in Batumi today. Louisa Vinton, Head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Georgia; Tornike Rizhvadze, Chairperson of the Ajara Autonomous Republic Government; and Valerian Mchedlidze, Head of the Agency of Protected Areas of Georgia, attended the event.
With USD 1.3 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the initiative in the Machakheli gorge was implemented in 2014-2018 through the joint efforts of UNDP, the Agency of Protected Areas, Ajara local authorities, businesses and communities.
The result was a comprehensive model for sustainable management of protected areas that opens up social and economic opportunities for more than 3,000 people living close to Machakhela National Park.
“People often think that protecting nature means fencing it off completely from the outside world, and thus limiting the economic prospects of surrounding communities,” said Louisa Vinton, UNDP Head in Georgia. “This is a misconception. We’ve been working to show how nature protection can create jobs and income opportunities, for example through eco-friendly food production for tourists. We’re looking to replicate the work we’ve done in Machakhela National Park in other protected areas in Georgia.”
As part of the program, 100 local households in the Machakheli gorge engaged in a renewable energy programme that continues into 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 helped reduce livestock losses caused by predators. Several families have been trained in touristic management and received start-up support to open family guesthouses.
Some other results of the five-year work include the demarcation of the Machakhela National Park boundaries, rehabilitation of its administrative premises and visitors’ centre, creation of hiking trails and preparation of information kits for tourists. In addition, UNDP and GEF carried out comprehensive research to support the future development of the National Park – a feasibility study, forest inventory and an assessment of potential revenue sources.
The initiative in the Machakhela National Park is part of UNDP’s wider assistance which aims to promote green solutions and make the environmental agenda an integral part of the country’s development.
Sophie Tchitchinadze, UNDP in Georgia, +995 599 196907, email@example.com