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The Conference was opened by the President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili.
Levan Davitashvili, Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia, addressed the participants of the event with welcome remarks.
“Georgia has made notable progress since 2016 when the country’s first Rural Development Strategy was adopted,” Levan Davitashvili said. “The Government of Georgia has introduced a new vision of rural development grounded on the best EU practices in this field. In the next seven years, we will focus on promoting local entrepreneurship and employment and increasing people’s engagement in the rural development process.”
"We are proud to be part of Georgia's progress in rural development and look forward to continuing working together with all key ministries to improve employment and living conditions of the rural population in Georgia. European experience implemented in Georgia has demonstrated the benefits of a bottom-up approach in rural areas, empowering local people to take the development of their communities into their own hands," Carl Hartzell, Ambassador of the European Union to Georgia, said.
“Rural development can help unlock the biggest socio-economic challenge facing Georgia, namely that farmers make up 43 percent of the workforce yet produce just 8 percent of GDP,” noted Louisa Vinton, Head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Georgia. “The new strategy will aim to narrow this gap by helping to make Georgia’s farms more professional and competitive, creating new non-farm jobs in rural areas and improving living conditions for rural communities.”
The Rural Development Conference 2019 was attended by officials and experts from EU Member States, including Markus Hopfner, Deputy Director General of the Federal Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism of the Republic of Austria; and Dr. Lászlo Sandor Vajda, Former Chief Negotiator for EU accession on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture of Hungary.
The discussions at the Conference focused on rural development policies and institutional arrangements, as well as on the ways of adapting successful European practices to Georgia’s realities.
The Rural Development Conference 2019 was organised by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia with the assistance of the European Union in cooperation with UNDP. The Conference is part of the EUR 179.5 million in EU assistance that Georgia is set to receive under the ENPARD programme between 2013 and 2022. This support aims to promote rural development policies and create economic opportunities for the rural population outside of agriculture.