At a joint closure event the four partners implementing the EU's ENPARD’s small farmers’ cooperation component, Care, Mercy Corps, Oxfam and People in Need, presented the results of their four-year work in support of EU-funded agricultural cooperatives in Georgia.
The event included plenary presentations by the implementing partners, stakeholders and beneficiary farmers. The discussion panels covered presentations on the support schemes provided by EU to agricultural cooperatives in Georgia and the results achieved within the first phase of ENPARD programme in 2014-2017. The representatives of EU, Ministry of Agriculture, Agricultural Cooperatives Development Agency (ACDA), International and local partner organisations, donors and ENPARD beneficiary farmers attended the event.
The conference was officially opened by Nodar Kereselidze, First Deputy Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia and Kaido Sirel, Deputy Head of Cooperation, Delegation of the European Union to Georgia.
“The establishment of the cooperative model is one of the key elements of ENPARD's first phase. It is encouraging to see that with the assistance offered by the EU and our cooperation with the Government of Georgia and local partners, farmers in cooperatives could benefit from economies of scale and cheaper production costs, which help raise their income.” – stated Kaido Sirel.
One of the milestone achievement of ENPARD’s cooperation component was the adoption of the law on agricultural cooperatives and the establishment of the Agricultural Cooperatives Development Agency (ACDA) – a key institution under the Ministry of Agriculture that now works towards improving productivity and competitiveness of agricultural cooperatives in Georgia.
With the support of EU, today around 1,500 cooperatives are registered in Georgia, uniting up to 15,000 farmers. Of these, more than 280 cooperatives received direct EU funding and technical assistance worth over GEL 13 million. With EU financing and grant schemes, ENPARD implementing partners have assisted the cooperatives by purchasing assets, providing intensive technical support via onsite trainings and expertise, as well as helped in market linkages for purchasing inputs and selling outputs. Around 8000 farmers across Georgia have been trained and improved their skills in farming and business management. Additionally, over 1000 cooperatives have received a total of GEL 6 million in grants through state aid programmes, supported by the EU.
Moreover, EU has provided an instrumental support in increasing the cooperatives’ capacity in advocacy. EU has helped to strengthen institutional capacity of Georgian Farmers’ Association (GFA) and to establish it as a key reference organisation in the sector. Besides, EU supported the GFA in the establishment of the Farmers Council, as an integrated entity within its governance structure, based on sectoral and municipal committees. The 120 members of the Council are now being trained to become advocates for farmers and cooperatives’ rights.
In addition, EU supported the Government to establish 59 Information and Consultation Centres across the country to provide free advice and training to rural communities on modern farming practices. To date, over 250,000 farmers have benefitted from the services of these centres.
It takes time to see impact in agriculture. Therefore, it is too early to assess full impact, but indicative studies show that farmers in EU supported cooperatives have increased their incomes by 27% and profit by 30% on average, and many cooperatives have doubled their employment. Since 2014, the production value per cooperative has also increased by 37% on average. The development trend is also noticeable in the average value of assets used by the cooperatives, which since the beginning of ENPARD in 2014, increased dramatically by 300% per cooperative. The study also shows that women are actively involved at all levels in agricultural cooperatives. In total, 53% of members and/or paid employees are women. Women also take leading managerial positions in cooperatives, out of all surveyed cooperatives 21% of management board members are women. For more information please see the following documents attached: ENPARD Cooperatives Survey Results and Key Findings of the Survey.
In parallel of the plenary sessions, EU supported cooperatives gallery was organized where participants could observe the programme’s results on the level of each beneficiary cooperative. The guests had opportunity to interact with beneficiary farmers directly on the spot, get familiar with their products and services.
“This is the most beneficial work I could have done for my village and my country” – stated Apetnak Zandaryan, the head of 20-member cooperative “Khulgumo”, cultivating potatoes in Akhalkalaki. “The members of our cooperative understand that it is impossible to increase production when owning a small land. We also believe that unification of resources and common vision is crucial for success. Each member of our cooperative owns about 1 hectare of land. All in all, we cultivate 10 hectares. All 20 members work equally and make furrows with the same standards, we use the highest quality potato seeds and uniform technology in harvesting and crop storage. The costs of our production has decreased 4 times, the potato quality has become much better, and the volume of our production has increased by 100%.” – said Apetnak.
“Cooperative enables beekeepers to produce honey of same standards and quality in large quantities.” – stated Mindia Kavtaradze, founder of honey cooperative “Vashlara” in Vani, Imereti region. With the EU support, Mindia received equipment and participated in various trainings on cooperative management and honey production. To increase the production volumes, he joined hands with Father Petre and his cooperative “Ora et Labora”. Together with other farmers in the village they formed a second level cooperative “Tafli Sachino”, which now united over 70 members. The production dynamics has considerably increased. The EU also helped with technique and machinery. “Now we have a honey processing unit of European level, which helps us not only in decreasing a workload but also in improving the quality. Georgian honey is distinguished with unique taste and in case of utilizing right technologies and standards we can create one of the best honey brands worldwide. This is what EU supports us in.” - said Father Petre. “The state and international organizations have done a lot for apiculture, now it is our time to work hard. If we have high quality production and manage to increase the volumes of production, we will find markets easily. For this purpose the unity of beekeepers and producing of honey of same standards is important.” – added Mindia Kavtaradze.
The EU supports agriculture and rural development in Georgia through its ENPARD Programme. Implemented since 2013 with a total budget of EUR 102 million, the main goal of ENPARD is to reduce rural poverty in Georgia. The first phase of ENPARD in Georgia focused on developing the potential of agriculture. The second phase of ENPARD focuses on creating economic opportunities for rural population that go beyond agricultural activities. The next phases will continue strengthening the agriculture sector, and also focus food safety and quality standards and further development of the rural development model. More information on ENPARD is available at: www.enpard.ge.
Mikolaj Bekasiak, Communications Manager, Delegation of the European Union to Georgia,
Tamar Khuntsaria, Team Leader, ENPARD Communication Unit, +995 595 989916, firstname.lastname@example.org