Photo: Vladimir Valishvili/UNDP

Over the next ten years, Georgia will graduate 300 professional farmers skilled in milk and dairy production thanks to a new vocational training institution, the Swiss Agricultural School Caucasus. Modelled on the historic Plantahof agricultural school in Switzerland, the school is set to open in 2021 and will serve as a model training facility for cattle breeding and dairy farming.

“Supporting cattle-breeding is a priority of the Georgian Government,” said Levan Davitashvili, Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia. “We are making important steps to develop this sector. Georgian farmers and entrepreneurs have access to finance, including soft loans and grants, and systemic efforts are undertaken to ensure quality veterinary support. With this in mind, qualified workforce is especially critical. Modern and advanced training facilities, such as the Swiss Agriculture School, will help provide future farmers with world-class education.”

“International expertise and cooperation between the public and private sectors are key to reforming vocational education and training,” said Tamar Kitiashvili, Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia. “The Swiss Agriculture School will help us introduce a modern approach to vocational training in agriculture and raise the qualification of teachers, ensuring that vocational training supplies labour market with qualified workforce and creates employment and self-employment opportunities.”

“Switzerland is proud to bring on board its 200-year long experience in agricultural training to assist Georgia in reforming its vocational education system,” said Danielle Meuwly, Regional Director of the Swiss Cooperation Office for the South Caucasus. “The Swiss Agricultural School Caucasus will promote quality education and successful business models, changing the lives of many Georgian farmers.”

The total investment needed to establish the new institution is estimated at USD 3,000,000. Funding will come from Swiss and Georgian private sources, including the Swiss South Caucasus Foundation.

“Our college aims to serve as a benchmark for agricultural vocational education in the region. The high-quality Swiss curricula and modern infrastructure enable us to achieve that,” said the SASC founder Mikheil Svimonishvili.

With USD 300,000 from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will develop the school curriculum, blending theoretical and practical training in cattle breeding and dairy production based on the Swiss Plantahof model. UNDP support will also include retraining teachers, setting up extension services for farmers, arranging internships for students and trainers, and offering business consulting to school graduates.

“Georgia is already famous for its cheese, with over 250 different varieties,” said UNDP Head Louisa Vinton. “But to translate great cheese into successful businesses and transform agriculture into a high-value economic sector, dairy farmers need to learn modern methods. UNDP is proud to contribute to this process through the establishment of a state-of-the art training facility built on Swiss models.”

This assistance is part of a wider partnership between UNDP and SDC to help reform vocational education and training so that the educational system responds to the demands of the labour market.

The construction of the Swiss Agricultural School Caucasus (SASC), including the college premises, dairy farm and a guesthouse for teachers, will be completed by spring 2021. Its brand-new campus is located near the village Sarkineti of Dmanisi municipality in the Kvemo Kartli region of Georgia. This area was home to a Swiss agriculture school and cheese enterprises in the 19th century.

In spring 2021, SASC will accept its first trainees, offering a three-year training course to 300 students over the next ten years and agriculture extension services to up to 2,000 farmers.

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