More than 700 farmers from all over Georgia participated in training programmes organized by FAO in 2020 with the support of the European Union (EU), under the ENPARD programme. FAO international and local agronomists conducted a comprehensive training programme through hands-on field training throughout the country.
The sessions covered many critically-important topics, including soil preparation and seed selection, irrigation, harvesting, post-harvest storage and transportation to the markets. With more than 40 demonstration plots established in various regions of Georgia, the country's farmers have had the opportunity to observe and learn the best agricultural practices in the field first-hand. Many of these farmers have already succeeded in bringing these modern innovations to their plots and enjoyed the benefits.
A special series of training was provided to hazelnut growers in the Kakheti region. 263 farmers participated in these sessions covering topics like theoretical introduction to hazelnut growing and care, postharvest handling and pruning of hazelnut trees of different ages etc.
Sessions on climate-smart agriculture methods such as drip irrigation, minimum tillage, no tillage, mulching, and Integrated Pest Management practices, amongst others, were conducted in eleven municipalities of Kakheti, Kvemo Kartli, Shida Kartli, Imereti, Guria and Adjara.
“The agricultural sector is essential to the Georgian economy. Nearly half of the country’s population depends on agriculture for their livelihood and the other half – for their food security. This importance has been further exacerbated by the current pandemic. To help Georgia boost its agriculture production, EU and FAO work together to increase farms’ productivity across the country by introducing modern, environmentally sustainable and cost-effective production techniques. New technologies are being introduced to farmers through a network of demonstration plots and more effective extension methods. As a result, beneficiary farmers are collecting up to 40% larger and better quality yields with 30% lower costs. But, more importantly farmers are enthusiastically disseminating their new found skills, and that should lead to a much more productive agriculture in the country.” – stated Georges Dehoux, Programme Manager for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Safety at the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia.
“Georgian farmers can and should make more profits from agricultural production. The new agricultural approaches and solutions introduced with FAO and EU support allow farmers to get better harvests and save more money. I can’t stress enough how important it is considering the challenges tied to COVID-19,” said Javier Sanz Alvarez, FAO-EU Project Coordinator.
Lali Sikhashvili, a female farmer from the Akhmeta municipality, who works a 0.27-hectare melon plot, was one of the participants of the FAO's training programme. She was particularly excited to have a demonstration plot established on her land. FAO agronomists provided technical support and helped Lali to set up a drip irrigation system and protective nets that help to minimize the effect of hail, which is becoming increasingly common in the region. According to Lali, the plot serves as a training location for locals, but also attracts farmers from neighboring communities who want to see which new methods can be used in melon production.
“The times are really hard: due to the pandemic, I had challenges with selling my harvest this year. However, with the installed drip irrigation system, I was able to harvest and sell my melons even after all the other melon plots in the community ran out of produce,” Lali stated.
FAO farmer’s training programs continue all year round, covering both the normal season production as well as off-season production. FAO agronomists supported open field production, but also helped farmers to establish and properly manage greenhouse production.
Drip irrigation systems, bed formation and mulching, were introduced in several locations, leading to great harvest of cabbage (Tamariani in Lagodekhi), lettuce (Chaduniani in Lagodekhi), cucumbers (Opshkviti in Tskaltubo), and off-season production of cucumber, spring onion, cauliflower and broccoli (Chiauri in Lagodekhi).
The installation of drip irrigation was particularly important, allowing for farmers to better use water and deliver the exact amount of fertilizer that plants need, avoiding the overuse of inputs and saving costs.
Another important innovation promoted by the FAO is the use of the no-tillage or minimum tillage methods for sowing wheat, barley, maize, and others. The no-till approach is a component of conservative, climate-smart agriculture methods, which involve the minimal disturbance of soil, as opposed to traditional deep plowing. It is not only cost-efficient, but also protects the soil from erosion, and reduces the risk and impact from short draughts, which are becoming more common in various Georgian regions due to climate change. This approach was successfully implemented in Kakheti and Shida Kartli on approximately 200 ha production plots.
The pandemic also didn’t stop the training process, since FAO specialists continue to provide Georgian farmers with support, following governmental regulations for public gatherings.
The EU is supporting agriculture and rural development in Georgia through its ENPARD programme. Implemented since 2013 with a total budget of EUR 234.5 million, the main goal of ENPARD is to provide economic opportunities in rural areas and reduce poverty in Georgia. More information on ENPARD is available at: www.enpard.ge.
Sophio Altunashvili, Communication Officer, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Representation in Georgia, 577 109950, Sophio.Altunashvili@fao.org