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Nazi Bolkvadze and her Friends

In 1980’s the planned settlement of a large groups of eco-migrant Ajarians and Svanetians started in Tetritskaro and Tsalka municipalities. There were several streams of eco-migration up to 2003. The advent of these incomers has left its mark on Kvemo Kartli. It became richer from an ethnic, religious and language standpoint, however it also gave rise to new problems and challenges for new and old residents alike in seeking to adapt to the new cultural diversity.

   

Many Adjaran and Svanetian families, eco-migrants from other areas of Georgia live in Tsalka Muniicpality. Nazi Bolkvadze is Ajarian and her house is in Imera Village located a few kilometers on the main road from Tsalka town. It is neat and comfortable with a sofa, armchairs, a carpet and curtains in the livingroom. There is no internal water system and cooking is done on a wood stove. Nazi’s five neighbours — Kseni Khozrevanidze, Pati Shavadze, Mimoza Nakaidze, Pikria Bolkvadze and Mziuri Vanadze — came for the meeting. All migrated from Ajara at different times.

The ladies compared their living conditions in Ajara with what they have now, all of the women are unanimous when they say that things are much better for them in Kvemo Kartli. They no longer face the problems of avalanches and landslides that they had when they lived in the mountains. Another important factor for them is that there is sufficient pasture for cows near the village here and so they do not have to travel far with the cattle in search of grass. In the morning, the cows leave with a cow herd who they pay and then return in the evening. All of the women note that this is very convenient. They also like the fact that there is a nice road from the village and they can travel to Tbilisi any time they wish.

All of the women wore headscarfs. They are Muslim but the topic of faith was not the focus of the meeting. The women have children — two each — and some of them are already grandmothers. They explained that although traditionally women have more children it would be difficult for them to raise more than two due to mainly economic constraints. Five of the six women who took part in the conversation have husbands. The families seem stable with non-drinking and hard-working husbands.

At least, this is how it is for Nazi and Kseni although it was clear from their faces that the women work very hard. Women’s work is hard but they do not always see it as such. The women are optimistic, cheerful and inclined towards joking. Mimoza Nakaidze married at the age of 16 and has two children. Mziuri Vanadze is 38 years old. She married at the age of 15 but only spent a brief period of time with her husband. Right after their marriage, he was drafted into the military and served in China and then died, accidentally, seven years after returning from service. Mziuri has been alone since then. She married off her daughter at the age of 13, when asked about the reason for her getting married at such a young age, she said that things just happened this way. Her daughter is 19 now and has a child of her own.

Milk provides the main source income for these households. Followed by growing potatoes for sale but this depends upon the presence of a land plot and its size. Not everyone has large tracts of land but everyone is able to keep a good number of cows. Nazi and her friends have eight to ten cows. Not all of them are milking cows and include bullocks and female calves as well as pregnant heifers. On average, the women milk six to eight cows each ???. They do not consider this a great difficulty and say that six cows can be milked in an hour and a half. The cows are milked twice a day, in the morning and again in the evening.

The women were asked whether they thought an investment in a milking machine would help them. The women said that they were skeptical of buying a milking machine. The main factor for them was its high cost which is around a thousand Lari (700 US dollars). Nazi’s husband also said that the device would require extra expenses for electricity and Kseni recalled that back during the times when she used to work as a cow milker at a collective farm, such devices were so inefficient that milking cows by hand took considerably less time and had better results. By the end of our conversation, however, the women seemed to be more interested in the idea of a milking device. They liked the idea of f saving time and energy as well as the idea of adding new cows to their herds.

The women do not complain about the heavy work they do but consider it to be as normal. They mention health-related issues such as sore joints as a result of their labour and criticize the local authorities for not having any medical specialists at Tsalka’s polyclinic which means that they have to travel to Tbilisi for any treatments they might need. Pikria Bolkvadze said that her daughter-in-law, who is expecting a baby, will have to deliver the child in Tbilisi which implies an extra cost for the family as well as a loss of time.

We asked about who was in charge of allocating the money in their households. It appeared that women clearly have a say in these matters with expenditures typically being household items and things their children need. They buy furniture, a car, clothing — even satellite dishes for receiving TV programmes, for example — but do not seem to invest in items which could make their work easier such as a pump for a well. The work done by women remains the same unless they insist on change. But in this case as well, according to Pikria, one has to be very persistent for a continued period of time in order to get things moving. Sometimes, she added, it really is easier just to do it by hand, like milking the cows.

Families are optimistic about the future because two milk collection centres belonging to EcoFood and Sante were built nearby a couple of years ago and buy milk from their village. This has resolved the problem of marketing cheese as the women now supply liquid milk and has provided stable income although the prices they pay are not so high, only around 60-70 tetri per litre. However sometimes, the factories delay payment and at other times, collection ceases. During periods when the collection centres do not buy their milk the villagers make their own Sulguni cheese from the accumulated milk of two or three families, to sell to traders who come to the village or they use the cheese in exchange for groceries at the local shop, purchasing machinery services or even buying second hand clothes from a woman who comes to the village specifically for exchanging cheese for clothes. They often work together which makes the process easier and more cost-efficient.

This was the case on the day of our visit with Nazi the families combining their milk and their efforts and making cheese whilst demonstrating the process for us. The large volumes of milk for making the cheese is very heavy. The men carried the milk container to the stove located inside the house and the women then carried out every other step of the process. The milk is brought to the required temperature. The clotting substance, a variety of pectin produced in Turkey is added next and curds start to form. Then the cheese is gathered up in a sieve and pressed to drain. Then the salt-water brine which is used for storing the cheese is prepared and the cheese placed in it.

We met another group of Adjarian women who were busy sowing potatoes on Khatuna Kamashidze’s land. She was being helped by three of her friends who are also her neighbours. Khatuna Kamashidze is 25 years old. She is from Adigeni and moved to Kvemo Kartli with her family in search of work. She says that she is ready to work day and night to fulfill her dream of having her own house. Currently, Khatuna’s family lives in a house belonging to Greek owners who migrated back to Greece when it acceded to the EU.

This situation is common in the Tsalka region. Ethnic Greeks return to their historical homeland but they do not wish to sell their houses, at least not immediately. In order to maintain their houses, the owners let internal migrants use them. Before leaving, the house owners leave the keys with trusted fellow villagers. The migrants who are already working here typically bring their family members or other relatives to live there, too. The absentee owners do not charge rent but the tenants cultivate the land and look after the house. These are informal agreements between people who have an empty house and people who need a place to live with state agencies not involved in any way. The whole process has worked well. This practice can on occasions lead to conflict however particularly when owners return after a number of years to the properties as has started to happen recently due to the economic crisis in Greece, however, overall, it continues to be advantageous for both sides and the number of migrants keeps growing.

Khatuna has two children, one aged seven and the other aged eight. Her husband shares her dream of having their own house. At present, he is away on a 20-day job in Turkey. There are seasonal jobs there, picking tea, for which they are paid 50 Lari per day which means that he will be able to earn 1,000 Lari. The balance after paying for travel and meal expenses will be put away for their future house. She is able to save money and believes that she will make her dream of her own house happen.

Seasonal work in Turkey has become quite popular. The men go away, leaving their wives at home to keep things running but the women do not mind and cope well because the men are absent for no longer than a month and this brings some additional income for the family. Esma Iremadze’s husband had also left for a short-term job, together with Khatuna’s husband. Esma is 22 and she has two children. She says that when they are done with Khatuna’s potatoes, they will move to her vegetable plot and then to the plots of Maia and Irma. So, in succession they will work on all their fields. Esma had come to the field with her younger daughter and while Esma is working, the older children, the daughters of the other women, take care of her. Irma Kakaladze is 25 years old. She has been married since the age of 16 and has two children. Maia Ananidze, at 33, is a little older than the other ladies. Her family migrated from Chokhatauri in 2004 and like her friends;  she lives in a house which belongs to Greek owners. Maia has a husband and three children. Several years ago her husband had a work accident, injured his hand and was disabled which meant that Maia carries much of the burden of work in the family.

It is evident that the women are friends and trust each other and that they have energy and hope. Through mutual assistance they benefit themselves and each other and are ready to make the most of any opportunity that comes their way.

OTHER NEWS
17/11/2020
Georgian Milk Mark in Ministry Magazine

Our Village, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia (MEPA) magazine with a circulation of 10,000 copies a month is publishing an article about the Georgian Milk Mark (GMM) in its October issue. The article provides comprehensive information about the GMM, a list of the GMM dairies and their products. Rural farmers across Georgia will receive the magazine through fifty-four MEPA Information Consultation Centers (ICCs) for free.

Currently, sixty-seven types of GMM dairy products from eighteen GMM  dairy companies are being sold  in Madagoni, Spar, Ori Nabiji, Nikora, Zgapari, Fresco, Foodmart, Carrefour, Goodwill, Willmart, Libre, Deili, Bilion supermarket chains. Details on www.georgianmilk.ge.


15/07/2020
Georgian Beekeeping Highlighted in German Magazine

A German beekeeping magazine Deutsches Bienen-Journal with circulation of 52,000 copies a month published a comprehensive article on beekeeping in Georgia and its history, local bee breed Mountain Grey Caucasian Honey Bee (Apis mellifera caucasica) and Jara honey a special mention of the project’s work.


29/10/2020
Improvements in Sheep Shearing


In 2018, while thinking about improving the quality of supplied wool, the Georgian Wool Company purchased twelve sheep shearing machines and trained a group of twelve shepherds, to provide a shearing service to sheep farmers. The service is available on the pastures at the beginning of spring and at the end of summer, when sheep are usually sheared in Georgia. This year, up to five-hundred farmers were served, with hundred thousand sheep sheared.

 

Before, the wool suppliers of the company sheared sheep by hand, which damaged wool fiber and the quality of wool was poor. It took time with only up to thirty sheep sheared a day. The sheep farmers had to ensure the workforce for shearing by hand, they also had to arrange wool storage space in pastures and transportation of wool from pastures to wool collection centers. Incompliant shearing and storage was decreasing the quality of wool and causing about a ten percent loss (up to thirty kilos), which was usually left on pastures polluting the local environment.

 

Now, the sheep shearing machines prevent damaging of wool fiber and respectively, the quality of wool has been improved. The company’s sheep shearing machine service includes storage and transportation of wool from pastures to the company`s warehouse in Tbilisi. Sheep shearing is now time-efficient with up to hundred sheep/day sheared by one trained shepherd. While shearing of thousand sheep by hand took at least three days, now the same is done just in one day. For the company it means a stable supply of wool in better, cleaner quality; For farmers it translates into reduced transaction costs, time and about 0.7 Gel saved per sheep.

The Georgian Wool Company first exported wool to the United Kingdom back in 2016. Ukraine, Kazakhstan, India, Afghanistan are now among top wool export destinations. Along with growing demand, improving quality has become a particular interest of the company.

09/10/2020
VET Colleges to Teach Jara Wild Honey Production

On October 8th, the Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU) hosted representatives of thirteen VET colleges from across Georgia and sectoral skills organization Agro Duo in Tbilisi. The meeting occasioned the integration of Jara honey production as a topic in VET college beekeeping programmes, something that the Georgian Beekeepers Union have been facilitating over the last year.

The participants received the Jara Honey Production Handbook and Bio Certification Guidelines for Beekeepers; and were introduced to two new websites www.honeyofgeorgia.com and www.jarahoney.com and a honey promotion video Discover Georgia: The Land of the Oldest Honey.

This year Akhali Talga VET College in Kobuleti and Khulo integrated the Jara materials into their one-year beekeeping programme in which twenty-eight beekeeper students are attending. At the meeting, Akhali Talga VET College shared their experience of successfully integrating the Jara materials into their beekeeping programme.

‘I had many calls before and after the meeting and I can say that the interest from the colleges is very high. We will provide support required and I am sure from the next year there will be more programmes with the Jara materials and improved content.’ – Aleko Papava, the Head of the GBU.

At the beginning of the meeting, the GBU and sectoral skills organization Agro Duo signed a Memorandum of Understanding pledging to work together to integrate Jara materials into the beekeeping programmes in all VET colleges in Georgia.

Jara is traditional wild beekeeping producing unique and pure honey rarely practiced nowadays, except for remote dwellings located in the subtropical and alpine zone of Georgia. However, for the first time in decades Jara production is being practiced again by new beekeepers or taken up again by those who had stopped. In 2018 the Jara Beekeepers Association was formed to represent producer interest and in the country first, twenty-three Jara beekeepers in Ajara have received Bio certification. Jara honey was commercially harvested and branded for the first time in 2018 and since then the market for Jara honey has grown in strength which is why the producers decided to become Bio Certified to further increase the value of their product. The Jara honey mark was registered this year to further protect this culturally important product.  

06/10/2020
Jara Beekeeping Brings Hope: Vazha’s Story

  

Fifty-seven years old Vazha Kedelidze from Kedlebi Village, Khulo is one of ten students who enrolled in the beekeeping programme at Akhali Talgha vocational college in August.

Vazha retired from his position as a fireman five years ago. Soon after, his wife had a severe injury that left her unable to take care of their farm. As Vazha says, beekeeping is now the mainstay of his family. His beekeeper friend helped him to arrange an apiary of twenty hives.

I discovered that beekeeping is a philosophy on its own. Sometimes I sit for hours and observe bees working. I am trying to understand the process.’- Vazha says.

As a beginner beekeeper, Vazha is striving for knowledge and struggling to gain comprehensive information, as internet sources are not targeted to beginner beekeepers and he needed something hands on. He then heard about the beekeeping course at the Akhali Talgha VET collegein Khulo.

‘I do not know curriculum details yet, but I am sure I will get answers to my questions and I am looking forward to starting the learning process.’ – Says Vazha.

Vazha was even more surprised when he found out a Jara beekeeping module:

‘I had heard about Jara from villagers and television. It is a fascinating and very unique tradition. Last year, I even made six Jara hives and could not proceed further due to a lack of knowledge. So, I am glad that I will learn more about this traditional beekeeping.’ – Says Vazha.

Akhali Talga VET college in Ajara is the first college in Georgia to have integrated Jara teaching in their beekeeping programme. They will teach the integrated programme from this semester to twenty-eight students.

In total, there are ten VET colleges in Georgia with either a two month or one-year beekeeping course. The Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU), along with the Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA),  is now facilitating the integration of Jara module into beekeeping programmes of these ten colleges in cooperation with the sectoral skills organization Agro Duo and the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia. The JBA developed the Jara Honey Production Handbook: for Beekeeping Programmes at VET Colleges.

Jara is traditional wild beekeeping, rarely practiced nowadays, except for remote dwellings located in the subtropical and alpine zones of Western Georgia, namely, Ajara, emphasizing the importance of co-existence between humans and wild nature. It is a family activity led by a family head, with strong roots in traditional agriculture practice, culture and a way of living as a whole. That makes Jara unique. However, due to a limited market, it was nearly fading outback in 2014 when the ALCP found out about it, and this is when the Jara journey began. It is now growing in 2018 the first commercial Jara harvest was 500kg it is now over 3 tonnes. Twenty-three Jara beekeepers are now Bio Certified and many people such as Vazha are anxious to start. Jara is a high value product with very strong demand it retails for 90 Gel/kg.

24/09/2020
Third Georgian Dairy Exports to USA

In mid September, dairy enterprise Tsintskaro+ Ltd in Kvemo Kartli sent 280 kg of different types of cheese (Sulguni, Smoked Sulguni, Georgian Cheese) and clarified butter produced by Milkeni Ltd through distribution company Geoproduct Ltd,  for sale in New York, USA after positive feedback received on product samples sent earlier in August. Both dairies are members of the Georgian Milk Mark the quality assurance label for Georgian natural milk and their products bare the GMM. The company expects a repeat order for at least 250 kg in the near future.

LATEST NEWS
Georgian Milk Mark in Ministry Magazine
17/11/2020
Our Village, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia (MEPA) magazine with a circulation of 10,000 copies a month is publishing an article about the Georgian Milk Mark (GMM) in its October issue. The article provides comprehensive information about the GMM, a list of the GMM dairies and their products. Rural farmers across Georgia will receive the magazine through fifty-four MEPA Information Consultation Centers (ICCs) for free. Currently, sixty-seven types of GMM dairy products from eighteen GMM  dairy companies are being sold  in Madagoni, Spar, Ori Nabiji, Nikora, Zgapari, Fresco, Foodmart, Carrefour, Goodwill, Willmart, Libre, Deili, Bilion supermarket chains. Details on www.georgianmilk.ge.
Georgian Beekeeping Highlighted in German Magazine
15/07/2020
A German beekeeping magazine Deutsches Bienen-Journal with circulation of 52,000 copies a month published a comprehensive article on beekeeping in Georgia and its history, local bee breed Mountain Grey Caucasian Honey Bee (Apis mellifera caucasica) and Jara honey a special mention of the project’s work.
Improvements in Sheep Shearing
29/10/2020
In 2018, while thinking about improving the quality of supplied wool, the Georgian Wool Company purchased twelve sheep shearing machines and trained a group of twelve shepherds, to provide a shearing service to sheep farmers. The service is available on the pastures at the beginning of spring and at the end of summer, when sheep are usually sheared in Georgia. This year, up to five-hundred farmers were served, with hundred thousand sheep sheared.   Before, the wool suppliers of the company sheared sheep by hand, which damaged wool fiber and the quality of wool was poor. It took time with only up to thirty sheep sheared a day. The sheep farmers had to ensure the workforce for shearing by hand, they also had to arrange wool storage space in pastures and transportation of wool from pastures to wool collection centers. Incompliant shearing and storage was decreasing the quality of wool and causing about a ten percent loss (up to thirty kilos), which was usually left on pastures polluting the local environment.   Now, the sheep shearing machines prevent damaging of wool fiber and respectively, the quality of wool has been improved. The company’s sheep shearing machine service includes storage and transportation of wool from pastures to the company`s warehouse in Tbilisi. Sheep shearing is now time-efficient with up to hundred sheep/day sheared by one trained shepherd. While shearing of thousand sheep by hand took at least three days, now the same is done just in one day. For the company it means a stable supply of wool in better, cleaner quality; For farmers it translates into reduced transaction costs, time and about 0.7 Gel saved per sheep. The Georgian Wool Company first exported wool to the United Kingdom back in 2016. Ukraine, Kazakhstan, India, Afghanistan are now among top wool export destinations. Along with growing demand, improving quality has become a particular interest of the company.
LATEST PUBLICATIONS
Measuring Urban Consumers Awareness of the GMM
A National Qualitative Review of the Municipal Women's Rooms
Deutsches Bienenjournal about Georgian Beekeeping