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The Baboyans from Village Kush

Armenians have been living in Kvemo Kartli for centuries. According to the 2002 census 31,777 out of 497,530 Kvemo Kartli residents were Armenians. The number of Armenians is highest in Tsalka where 11,484 Armenians live, out of a total population of 20977. The advent of Armenians in Georgia was related to the movement of people during the Arab, Turk-Seljuk, Mongolian, Turkmen, Kizilbash, Ottoman Turk and other invasions. Several major settlements of Armenians took place in 1828-1829, during the Russian-Turkish war

There is a bumpy road leading to the village of Kush in Tsalka Municipality over a damaged bridge that has a big hole in it. The village appears rather neglected and so it was a nice surprise to arrive at the well-kept, clean and tidy home of the Baboyans. They have hot water in the kitchen and a “city-style” bathroom and toilet. The Baboyans are a family of farmers. Lena, the eldest woman in the family, is a mother and grandmother and worked for the majority of her working life in a field-brigade at the local collective farm. Her husband, Askharabek, born in 1929, also worked there as a tractor operator from his childhood. Lena is worried about her husband. In the house, Ashkharabek was lying on the sofa, covered with a blanket. He was not feeling well and so Lena was bringing warm bricks to place on his legs to make him feel better. He complains that his long-term service has not been recognised by the government. Pensions are low, he added, and no one has even said a word of thanks to him for his many years of hard work. Moreover, he is sick now and cannot afford medical treatment. Unlike her husband, Lena kept silent for most of our visit and only cautiously tried to stop Ashkarabek’s complaints. She herself has had her share of hard work in her life. She raised three children: her daughter Marina (born in 1960) and sons Matevos (1961) and Manvel (1963) and at the same time she worked on the collective farm. She remembers the farm work with nostalgia, saying it was good and cheerful, and that she had her own money. 

Marina, her daughter is of the same opinion. She lives with her husband and children in Krasnodar, Russia. Marina is the only member of the family fluent in Russian. She also recalls the past with nostalgia when the village was bigger and better and village life was more interesting.

Marina graduated from the Hydro and Land Reclaim Technical College in Yerevan and has always worked in her specialisation although she was moved to reception duties as she got closer to retirement. She thinks it would be great if a collective or state farm is set up in the village again. She highlighted the opportunity once provided for village women to get out of the house and to go to work and earn wages paid every month which would be their own money to be spent as they wished.

Now the family grows potatoes and sells milk, eggs and cheese at the local Saturday market. Any spare income is saved for the education of the children. The granddaughter Lena and her brother Oganez are both recipients of this investment in their futures by their family. Lena, named after her grandmother is 22 years old and has recently graduated from the Yerevan Pedagogical Institute and has returned to Kush. There is no job for her, however, as the local school is already fully staffed with teachers. She is contemplating what to do next and thinking about training to become a hair stylist. Her studies in Yerevan cost her family, at conservative estimates, at least 5,000 Lari. This is only for the rent of an apartment in Yerevan because tuition was free-of-charge since Lena managed to register in the non-paying sector. Oganez, her brother, is also in Yerevan where he is currently a student of economics but he is in the fee-paying sector. His education will cost the family much more. Oganez’s four-year degree programme in economics will cost 14,000 Lari — a little less than 10,000 US dollars.

Lena’s son Manvel is the only one from Lena’s family without a special education and so he works as a tractor operator, like his father. Nazik, his wife is from the neighbouring village of Nadrevani, she married Manvel at an early age and did not continue her education after graduating school which she still regrets. This reinforces her desire to provide her with children higher education which is highly respected by everyone in the family. It seems that they are working exclusively to raise the significant amounts of money required for this purpose.

Manvel has his own tractor and he earns money by fulfilling orders for fellow villagers. There are many orders but not everyone can afford to pay. But Manvel continues to do the work and keeps records of the amounts receivable in a notebook. The family has only two cows and so they do not have much milk to sell. They do, however, have a lot of potatoes. However, this year has not been lucky for the potatoes with buyers not yet coming to the village, so the potatoes are being stored in the cellar. The price of potatoes is 30 Tetri per kilogram. Retail prices in Tbilisi are three times as high. Unfortunately, the lack of a buyer or wholesaler network means that they may be wasted.

According to Marina and her niece many school graduates strive to continue their education, going mainly to Armenia and Russia. Very few of them go to Tbilisi due to the lack of knowledge of the Georgian language. Lena said that she would gladly go to live and work in Tbilisi but the language problem is stopping her as she speaks neither Georgian nor Russian.

This is a real problem for the young people. There are very limited opportunities for employment in the village and limited knowledge of what could be achieved, for example, in small business. Older women would be willing to do something but their imagination does not go beyond their past experiences on the collective farm. Younger women lack information and the avenues to acquire skills and start-up capital are very limited if no absent. There are only two private micro enterprises in the village: a shop and a gas station. Both are owned by men. There are no women-run businesses at all. However every week in Kush there is a barter market operates where goods from lower altitudes such as grapes and oil are exchanged via wholesalers for those from the locality such as cheese and as women make cheese and know what is required by the family they are more involved in the barter trade than men.

At 22 the issue of marriage is becoming relevant for young Lena. As there are no suitable marriage candidates for a girl with education, many young women are leaving the village for bigger towns and cities. However, in Kush it is customary for young women to marry fellow villagers. Sometimes, men marry and bring women from far-away places to the village but the women marry local men. However, the women of the family said that ethnic villages have little interaction even in farming. Their isolation is very strong and is intensified at times, by dislike. People that have lived here for many generations do not like migrants from Svaneti and Ajara.

Lena’s family in Kush is a hard-working and friendly one which values and works towards self-development and education of the next generation, although this is a future far from certain. On the one hand, the family sacrifices the interests of its older members in favour of the younger ones and invests all its efforts in their future. On the other hand, this future has little promise in Kush. The education that the family gives to its younger generation through such hard work often can only be capitalized upon if the children move away. Lena and her husband are perhaps deeply concerned not only because of the built up weariness due to the hard work and sacrifice but also because of the subconscious realisation that real opportunities for the young can only be found elsewhere.

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16/02/2021
Georgian Honey Export Expands

Nena a honey export company has been exporting since 2019. Chestnut and Jara honey have been sold in twenty shops in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey from January, 2021. Nena also exported Jara honey to Japan. And by the end of February, Bio Jara honey, a new product will be exported to the USA. Canada is a promising market and has repeated its order for the fourth time.

05/02/2021
Jara Beekeeping a National Treasure

Producing honey in Jara hives has officially been granted Intangible Cultural Heritage status by the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia. The Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA) applied to the Agency back in 2020.

Jara is traditional wild beekeeping, a practice which almost died out but which has since 2014 begun a slow revival with the facilitation of the ALCP. The ancient tradition with strong roots in traditional agriculture, culture represents a unique way of life. The status recognizes Jara’s need to be preserved for future generations earning a place amongst other honourable Georgian traditions, including, Qvevri wine-making and Georgian song and dances. This status and will contribute to its further preservation and promotion.

It also brings hope and feeling of pride to those beekeepers who are continuing or are now taking Jara beekeeping up.

Jara has been on a fascinating journey since 2014. This journey includes The first commercial harvesting, registering the Jara honey mark, being promoted at the international exhibitionsfirst Bio certification, being taught at the VET college and reaching export markets in the US and Canada. And we can be sure, more things are on their way.  

21/01/2021
Power of Christmas Spirit Shown by Municipal Women’s Rooms

Christmas is a magical time awakening the holiday spirit in us. They say, Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting.

Before Christmas this year, the managers of the municipal Women’s Rooms in Kakheti, who like everyone else have adapted themselves to remote working due to the COVID-19 pandemic, established an online Christmas Charity Auction on Facebook to help families in need affected by the pandemic. The managers selected seven families in need for help. Their stories are heartbreaking; of a single mother, a victim of domestic violence, raising her children by herself, grandparents raising orphans, a child with disabilities and families with many children living in extreme poverty. Up to five hundred people joined in the auction donating or buying things in the auction with the money raised going for donation. The auction raised more than two thousand Gel over two weeks and besides money, the families received sweets, books, gifts; and special food for a girl with Celiac Disease.

The Christmas of the seven families was changed for the better. The Christmas Charity Auction finished on the 7th of January, though the online group on Facebook remains active, as the Women’s Rooms are planning to continue sharing the act of kindness with families in need and are open to anyone willing to contribute to any future auctions.

There are twenty-eight Women's Rooms in twenty-seven municipalities of four regions of Georgia. Find more about Women’s Rooms here.

30/12/2020
Woman Entrepreneur on Overcoming Challenges during the Pandemic

An article Challenges Emerge for Women Entrepreneurs as a Result of the Covid-19 Pandemic  has been published on Civil Society Portal in Georgia as part of an essay competition. The woman entrepreneur-Zeinab in the article is the Director of the dairy enterprise Tsintskaro+Ltd in Tetritskaro, Georgia. The Alliances Programme, an SDC and ADA project implemented by Mercy Corps Georgia, has been facilitating this dairy since 2016. Zeinab wrote this article by herself and won the Civil Society Portal essay competition. The article comes at the right time. We all need this kind of encouraging information during the pandemic period.

You might be interested in information on how businesses in Georgia are dealing with challenges caused by COVID-19 and can check our report COVID-19 Effects on the ALCP Clients Businesses.

14/12/2020
Jara Honey Bio Production Grabs Newly Appointed Minister’s Interest

The Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA) hosted the new Minister of Agriculture of Ajara Autonomous Republic. One Bio certified Jara beekeeper invited the Minister to Namonastrevi village in Keda to watch the Jara harvest. He also visited the Agro-Keda factory where KTW produce the Nena honey brandto see the Bio honey production and packaging process following strict Bio standards. The JBA together with its members talked about their work, education materials they have disseminated among their members, results and planned activities.

‘Jara honey is an amazing product it’s tradition and now Bio certification. It has great export potential. Even though, the pandemic has significantly limited our budget, we will support the JBA to help ensure the sustainability of the Jara honey production and Bio certification.’ – Giorgi Surmanidze, Minister of Agriculture of Ajara.

In a country first, there are now twenty four Bio certified Jara beekeepers, including the Jara apiary in the Goderdzi Alpine Garden. The Agro-Keda Factorythe only company commercially harvesting Jara honey, received Bio certification in October 2020, thus the company is eligible to sell the Bio certified Jara honey crop with a Bio label soon available in the supermarket chains throughout Georgia.

The JBA is due to start selling the honey of its members under its own label from December this year. The Agroservice Center of the Ministry has already allocated a room in Keda municipality center for the JBA for the compliant packaging and labeling of its products.

More details on Jara honey to be found on www.jarahoney.com.

Photo source: The Ministry of Agriculture of Ajara Autonomous Republic

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.


LATEST NEWS
Georgian Honey Export Expands
16/02/2021
Nena a honey export company has been exporting since 2019. Chestnut and Jara honey have been sold in twenty shops in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey from January, 2021. Nena also exported Jara honey to Japan. And by the end of February, Bio Jara honey, a new product will be exported to the USA. Canada is a promising market and has repeated its order for the fourth time.
Jara Beekeeping a National Treasure
05/02/2021
Producing honey in Jara hives has officially been granted Intangible Cultural Heritage status by the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia. The Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA) applied to the Agency back in 2020. Jara is traditional wild beekeeping, a practice which almost died out but which has since 2014 begun a slow revival with the facilitation of the ALCP. The ancient tradition with strong roots in traditional agriculture, culture represents a unique way of life. The status recognizes Jara’s need to be preserved for future generations earning a place amongst other honourable Georgian traditions, including, Qvevri wine-making and Georgian song and dances. This status and will contribute to its further preservation and promotion. It also brings hope and feeling of pride to those beekeepers who are continuing or are now taking Jara beekeeping up. Jara has been on a fascinating journey since 2014. This journey includes The first commercial harvesting, registering the Jara honey mark, being promoted at the international exhibitions, first Bio certification, being taught at the VET college and reaching export markets in the US and Canada. And we can be sure, more things are on their way.  
Power of Christmas Spirit Shown by Municipal Women’s Rooms
21/01/2021
Christmas is a magical time awakening the holiday spirit in us. They say, Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. Before Christmas this year, the managers of the municipal Women’s Rooms in Kakheti, who like everyone else have adapted themselves to remote working due to the COVID-19 pandemic, established an online Christmas Charity Auction on Facebook to help families in need affected by the pandemic. The managers selected seven families in need for help. Their stories are heartbreaking; of a single mother, a victim of domestic violence, raising her children by herself, grandparents raising orphans, a child with disabilities and families with many children living in extreme poverty. Up to five hundred people joined in the auction donating or buying things in the auction with the money raised going for donation. The auction raised more than two thousand Gel over two weeks and besides money, the families received sweets, books, gifts; and special food for a girl with Celiac Disease. The Christmas of the seven families was changed for the better. The Christmas Charity Auction finished on the 7th of January, though the online group on Facebook remains active, as the Women’s Rooms are planning to continue sharing the act of kindness with families in need and are open to anyone willing to contribute to any future auctions. There are twenty-eight Women's Rooms in twenty-seven municipalities of four regions of Georgia. Find more about Women’s Rooms here.
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