With over 40 percent of the population engaged in farming on a larger or smaller scale, the scope of subsistence agriculture has long been seen as one of Georgia’s biggest hurdles to development. However, in pandemic conditions, thousands of Georgian rural families are now relying more than ever on farming as a coping strategy to put food on the table and replace lost sources of income.
To help poorer and vulnerable households succeed in this effort, UNDP is distributing agricultural support packages with a total value of USD 90,000 to 620 women farmers in seven regions of Georgia.
As part of its resolve to support Georgian partners in “leaving no one behind” in the pandemic response, UNDP worked with the Georgian Association of Women Farmers to select recipients from among households facing severe challenges during the pandemic: single parents with large numbers of children; survivors of domestic violence; parents raising children with disabilities; households in isolated locations; internally displaced households; and women-headed households in national minority communities.
UNDP Head Louisa Vinton took part in the distribution of support packages to 13 women-headed households in Kakheti and Kvemo Kartli regions on 15-16 December 2020. The visit included Akhmeta, Telavi, Gurjaani and Sagarejo municipalities. Among the recipients were a grandmother caring for eight grandchildren; mothers of eight and five children, respectively; widows in Azerbaijani communities; a survivor of domestic violence raising four children alone; and the mother of a teenager with cerebral palsy.
In Sagarejo municipality, Vinton delivered support packages to families in the remote village of Udabno, whose residents were evacuated from Svaneti after catastrophic avalanches in the 1980s. Women-headed households from the ethnic minority community in Gardabani municipality also received support.
“Agriculture itself has not been much affected by the pandemic,” said Vinton. “But our conversations confirm that for many rural families, and especially for women-headed households, COVID-19 has abruptly eliminated vital outside sources of income that they depended on to make ends meet. Our support packages are aimed at helping rural women fill this gap by expanding and improving their crops.”
Each package contains an electric-powered backpack sprayer, fertilizer, pesticides and other agricultural tools and inputs along with instructions on use. Included are pesticides aimed at the brown marmorated stinkbug, to prevent the infestations that have devastated harvests over the past three years. UNDP tailored the contents specifically for small subsistence farmers based on recommendations from the Rural Development Agency that operates under the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture.
Packages were already distributed in Imereti, Guria, Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti and Racha-Lechkhumi-Kvemo Svaneti regions in November. A total of 480 households have received agricultural support packages so far across seven regions, with another 140 packages to be distributed in coming weeks.
The aid is part of a USD 1 million joint programme funded by the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund. Implemented by UNDP, UNICEF and UNFPA, the programme supports national and municipal authorities and local communities in addressing the pandemic emergency. Alongside vulnerable rural families, public sector workers and shelters for homeless and elderly people are also receiving support. The initiative is managed through a Danish-funded local development programme and the UN Joint Programme for Gender Equality financed by the Swedish government.