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Cheese Story

Name: Natural Produktsia Ltd

Place: Dioknisi Village, Khulo Municipality

Type of business: Cheese Factory

Product: Imeruli Cheese

Suppliers: about 450 women from 13 villages of Khulo

Current production per day: 5 tons of milk  (700 kg of cheese) 


The Problem

The 450 women now selling milk directly to the milk collectors of the Natural Produktsia Ltd Factory in Dioknisi, Khulo used to make cheese from their milk.  Women are responsible for milking the household cattle and making the cheese, butter, sour cream and cottage cheese which is then sold as an important part of the family’s livelihood.

Selling these products however is hard and uncertain. The journey by marshutka to Batumi Agrarian Market can take up to 4 hours on bad roads. It is taken to the market by husbands or other male family members or sent with the driver and met by a relative who then tries to sell it. There is no guarantee of a sale and often the family is forced to accept a low price from the market vendors rather than take it home again.

 
The Idea

The idea for the factory came from a member of an old Khulo farming family, Arcadi.  His brother, Tsezari was already in the dairy business in Tsalka with his mother, where, hoping to escape the lack of opportunity in Khulo they moved to Kvemo Kartli and started a small cheese factory in a cowshed.  This cowshed is now a purpose built factory with its Sulguni cheese supplying Carrefour and the 5 star hotels of Batumi. Alliances KK had helped them do it. Arcadi was already selling his brother’s Sulguni cheese from the familiy’s distribution outlet in Batumi Market, but Sulguni only makes up 20% of the market the other 80% is for Imeruli.  When Alliances opened in Ajara in 2014, Arcadi saw his chance. He proposed a small factory collecting milk from the upper mountain villages making Imeruli cheese.  The gamble was that Imeruli sells for 2 lari less per kilo than Sulguni and you have to make and sell a lot more of it to make a profit.


The Solution

450 women are now selling milk directly to the milk collectors of the Natural Produktsia Ltd Factory in Dioknisi, Khulo. The building which opened in September 2015 is compliant with the new food safety and hygiene requirements and equipped with, with new modern dairy equipment.  

Milk collectors from the factory collect the milk daily from the women in their houses. The women were specially trained by a food safety consultant in producing clean milk. The women save two hours a day from not having to make cheese, they save the costs of wood or gas for heating the milk to make it and other materials such as pepsin.  The family is saved the costs and time and worry of having to get to Batumi and sell the cheese.


The End and the Beginning

The programme and Arcadi were unsure of how much milk there would be.  People had said how poor the little red Ajaran cow was, how despairing the rural population. Ajara however has a magic, special even to Georgia, when the news went out that the factory was open the villagers decided en masse to sell.  Overnight more milk than anyone imagined was available.  The factory is processing 5 tonnes of milk about 700kg of cheese a day at a time of year when many dairy factories are thinking of shutting down for the winter as milk supply dwindles until the following spring. They have turned milk away as they have yet the capacity to process more. Expansion is already on the cards.  Of the cheese itself the fat content is high and the milk itself from the high mountain pastures of pristine Ajara.  The cheese moreover is delicious. The queues out the door of Aracadi’s distribution outlet in Batumi Market and the fact it’s sold out by midday testify to that.

OTHER NEWS
24/05/2021
Where the streets are paved with gold: Georgian Honey Goes to London

As Dick Whittington found out the London streets are not literally paved with gold. However four Georgian honey companies are participating in a celebration of the liquid kind. The London International Honey Awards held from May 30-31st, have two main award categories: quality and design, and feature honeys from all over the world, from Canada to the Mediterranean to New Zealand and everything in between. Competition is fierce. The four Georgian honey companies, Nena, Rukhi Queen, Honey and Irinola Company and Cooperative Kodi, were supported to participate by the Embassy of Georgia to the UK and the Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU). 

21/05/2021
VET Meets Jara

On May 18th-19th, twelve VET college representatives from seven regions of Georgia attended a Training of Trainers in Jara Honey Production hosted by the Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU) and the Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA) in Keda, Medzibna Village.

The trainees learnt how to teach beekeeping students Jara honey production and how to obtain Bio certification. They also visited a Bio certified Jara apiary and the Agro-Keda factory to see the process of Jara honey processing and packaging.

Akhali Talga VET College in Kobuleti and Khulo, who have already integrated the Jara teaching materials into their one-year beekeeping programme since October 2020, also shared their experience of including and teaching Jara production.  

‘I am happy to attend this training, as I learned a lot. I am ready to teach Jara beekeeping to my students, because it will make our beekeeping programme even more interesting.’ – Ilia Khazarishvili, a lecturer at the Public College Aisi, Kakheti.

‘I am glad that all of the colleges now acknowledge that Jara teaching is an essential part of Georgian beekeeping programmes. During these two days they heard about a wide range of Jara topics, for example, Bio certification, which was impressive for them. Now they are convinced that Jara teaching has a future and this will help them to attract more students to beekeeping. They also saw the demand from businesses after visiting two Jara honey processing entities.’ - Aleko Papava, the Head of the GBU.

The National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement and sectoral skills organization Agro Duo are supporting Jara teaching integration in the VET colleges.

On June 1st, the GBU is organizing an online event Highlights So Far: Jara in VET, which is bringing together VET colleges, specialists, agro journalists, donors, and public officials to further promote Jara teaching in VET colleges and share reflections on the training.


10/05/2021
Jara Attracts International Media

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, an international media organization broadcasting in twenty-seven languages in twenty-three countries, published an article about Jara: Georgia’s Cliff-Top Honey Harvest by an international photographer/journalist Amos Chapple. He reached out to the Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA) and travelled to Ajara to see Jara beekeepers climbing heights for Jara honey harvest. Radio Tavisupleba (Radio Liberty Georgia) also put a Georgian version of the article on its website.


14/04/2021
The First International Agri Journalism Conference

On April 13th, an online event of the Journalism Resource Center (JRC) International Conference in Agricultural Journalism and Agricultural Education brought together regional academic and media representatives from Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Ukraine. The enthusiasm for, dedication towards and interest in agri journalism and its importance for people and youth were striking.

The Deputy Regional Director of the Swiss Cooperation Office (SCO) did the opening speech. The representatives from Georgia showed that they understand the demand for and are fully engaged in the media market for agri journalism. 

‘Agri journalism is an integrated course for bachelor’s students. After Training of Trainers for lecturers we will develop a separate course. We also see the demand from students. Cooperation with media and government agencies is crucial in this regard.’ - A representative from Brusov State University in Armenia.

A freelance journalist from Baku talked about the usage of multimedia tools in agri journalism. The field of agri journalism is attractive but seems difficult to attain to media representatives from Moldova and Ukraine. A Producer of Volinsk Branch of National Public TV and Radio Company of Ukraine expressed his willingness to co-operate with the JRC to copy some activities related to agri journalism.

‘I am surprised by hearing about Georgia and Armenia, where agricultural education works so well’. - The LikTV Founder in Moldova, who empathized with the difficulties expressed by the representative of Ukraine and stated that universities in Moldova need to work on establishing agricultural journalism.

The ALCP Team Leader spoke about the programme support for agri journalism development in an interview on Agrogaremo TV. An agri journalism course alumni shared his experience and motivation with the JRC. A short documentary video by the JRC tells us a story about agri journalism development.

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.  

LATEST NEWS
Sharing of Agricultural Education, Extension Experience with Azerbaijanis Colleagues
12/11/2021
The Journalism Resource Centre (JRC), in partnership with the Society of Women for Rational Development in Azerbaijan (WARD), hosted a study visit of media and educational institution representatives of Azerbaijan. Agri-journalism students and lecturers at Caucasus International University shared agricultural journalism teaching practices. In Kakheti, they visited the farm of Beka Gonashvili, Head of the Georgian Shepherds Association, farmer, and entrepreneur.  They also visited Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking to see their Jara honey and wine production and the dairy Leanka in Dedeplitskaro.  The importance of education and information for farmers and producers and their cooperation with agricultural media was emphasized. Beka Gonashvili emphasized the importance of providing quality information to farmers and producers. He is both a blogger and a farmer, so he is regularly publishing useful agriculture-related posts. The female owner of Leanka dairy talked about how the enterprise is ensuring the quality and how media is playing a significant role in this. At Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking Company particpants saw wine and Jara honey production and their export and how the Georgian Beekeepers Union is advocating the interests of honey sector representatives and supporting the awareness raising of beekeepers, such as through the national information campaign - Do’s and Don’ts of Antibiotic Use. Participants also watched a report about Jara Honey by Al Jazeera and Jara the Movie. ‘We will all together will work well for expansion the teaching of agricultural Journalism in Azerbaijan’ – Natia Kuprashvili, the Head of the JRC. The Society Women for Rational Development (WARD) in partnership with the JRC is going to prepare a course of agricultural communication based on the study visit and share it with educational institutions in Azerbaijan. Please see the related links: a textbook of Constructive Agricultural Journalism and video lessons added to this textbook.
BageBee Beekeeping Regional Center Welcomes Jara
02/12/2021
In November 2021 Jara hives took their place at the Beekeeping Regional Center, BageBee in Tbilisi for demonstration and educational purposes with the help of the Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA). The center is highly motivated to integrate Jara teaching in its beekeeping vocational programme now being developed under the project Modernization of Vocational Education and Training (VET) System Related to Agriculture - Work-based Learning. Last week, the JBA presented Jara honey to a wider audience at the Autumn Beekeeping Fair/Event, organized by the BageBee center, which was also attended by the Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU) board members. Mutual cooperation between the GBU and the center is ongoing. The executive director of the GBU was invited to give a speech at the event and the director of the center was invited to the GBU Weekly Facebook Live meeting to present the center to the GBU member beekeepers. Beekeeping Regional Center BageBee opened in Tbilisi in July 2021. The idea is to support the rural/urban connectivity, sustainable agriculture, and the vision of Tbilisi as a Green City.Key principles of the centre are environmental appreciation, sustainable resource use and inclusive growth. The BageBee center was built and equipped by the Czech Development Agency in the framework of the project Sustainable Development of Beekeeping in Georgia with a partnership of People in Need, Georgia, Association Agora and Tbilisi City Hall.
Ensuring Animal Movement Route Sustainability
08/10/2020
Animal Movement Route (AMR) stakeholders are working together to make an AMR Sustainable Development Roadmap, which will include an action plan and future management scheme. This idea came as a result of the AMR stakeholders meeting on October 8th, 2021. The First Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, the Head of the National Agency for Sustainable Land Management & Land Usage Monitoring, representatives of the National Food Agency, the National Agency of the State Property, Shepherds Association of Georgia, Georgian Farmers Association, FAO National Animal Identification Registration and Traceability programme (NAITS) and Land O’Lakes participated in the meeting and discussed the future development, management and sustainability of the AMR.  “To solve the complex problems connected to the land and management of the route we still need some help from the ALCP. Together we did seven Veterinary Safety Points and water points on the route. Now it is time to have a concrete vision and plan on the future development,’ – the Deputy Minister said. In addition, Sheep Dipping Guidelines for Private Sheep Dips developed by the programme following Environmental, Health and Safety Assessments of three private sheep dips are ready to be approved by the National Food Agency. The guidelines provide simple operational and safety instructions for private sheep dip owners to mitigate potential environmental and health harm that can be caused by the sheep dipping process.
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