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First Bio Certified Honey in Georgia

In a country first, eighteen Jara beekeepers in Ajara have received Bio certification. Jara honey was not even commercially harvested and branded until 2018, however the market for the honey has proved its strength so successfully that the beekeepers saw the opportunity to further promote their product through bio certification.  

The conversion was relatively simple and certainly achievable as Jara honey is based on the capture of wild swarms and is relatively hands off. Since November 2018, the Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA) has been facilitating training and on-site recommendations; it also provides treatment of hives with a Bio vet medicine and special equipment for the mentioned Jara beekeepers. The beekeepers now follow the bio requirements; including keeping records, better husbandry, use of bio vet medicine. This allowed for smooth journey through the minimum one-year conversion period for certification.

Caucascert, the only organic certification company in Georgia issued the internationally recognized Bio certificates after laboratory results and field checks, which did not show any incompliance.

‘I am very proud that I was able to get Bio certification. It was challenging, as I did not have any kind of information before, but support from the JBA was crucial. I can already see the outcomes, because the process already contributed to minimizing disease risk and increase productivity of a Jara hive by thirty percent’ – Bio certified Jara beekeeper from Keda municipality.

Six more Jara beekeepers, including the Jara apiary in the Goderdzi Alpine Garden, are currently undergoing the certification process and might obtain certification by the end of this year.

The Jara honey mark was registered in February, 2020 and both its production and the market for it, including export is growing. More details on Jara honey to be found on www.jarahoney.com.

OTHER NEWS
21/05/2020
Beekeepers Union Keeps Bees Moving

The Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU) successfully advocated for permits to be issued for beekeepers allowing them to continue work during the curfew.

The Government of Georgia declared the nationwide curfew on March 30th, 2020 to restrict the spread of the COVID-19 virus, prohibiting any movement from 9:00 PM to 06:00 AM. This posed a serious problem for beekeepers who rely on transhumance predominantly at night.

In Georgia, bee transhumance allows for beekeepers to place hives at different altitudes to capture the flowering of different plants. Starting from late Spring, Georgian beekeepers start to move apiaries to get different types of honey including Acacia,Chestnut, Alpine, Linden. The transhumance of bees significantly increases their honey productivity.

On April 4th, the GBU sent an official letter to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia (MEPA) asking for the issuing of permission/passes for beekeepers including the guidance it developed for beekeepers during the Covid-19 outbreak.

We asked the Minister to mediate with the appropriate agencies to issue special permits, so that beekeepers may access their apiaries and work there, transport beekeeping apiaries for transhumance on pre-determined routes within the curfew conditions.’ – Avksenti Papava, the Director of the GBU.

Up to eight hundred beekeepers have already used permits, who are now able to visit apiaries and carry out vital seasonal treatment and maintenance.  Bees are transported at night where possible, because they do not leave a hive during night, which the permit makes possible.

‘I have my apiaries located in the different regions for getting various types of honey. I was very happy to hear about special permit for beekeepers, as it is very active season in beekeeping. I am able to freely move to the locations and do not worry about time limitations’ – Kakhaber Zirakasvili, a beekeeper.

Guidance and contact information on getting permits and the Covid-19 recommendations have been shared by the GBU on its facebook page.

The Georgian Beekeepers Union (www.geobeekeepers.ge) is an umbrella association uniting ten beekeeping associations and three commercial beekeeping companies with more than four thousand Georgian beekeepers. It was established to represent their interests and to promote the health and development of the honey sector in Georgia with the facilitation of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) project the Mercy Corps Georgia implemented Alliances Caucasus Programme (ALCP).


19/05/2020
Kindness is Contagious

In the midst of anxiety under the COVID-19, some people rise to the occasion when faced with adversity and it is uplifting to hear stories about them. As for many others it has been difficult times for the client businesses of the programme, but they have continued to help people most affected by the current crisis over the past two weeks.  

Ten dairy enterprises with the Georgian Milk Mark www.georgianmilk.ge provided cheese for the medical staff of hospitals in the frontline of battling the virus as well as people under quarantine and locals in the lockdown areas in the different regions of Georgia, who have limited access to the markets.

‘It is now important to show support to each other. I was very happy to see reactions from people, who were very surprised and thankful. I think those GMM enterprises set very good example for others.’ – A GMM cheese distributor.  

The Georgian Beekeepers Union (www.geobeekeepers.ge), uniting ten beekeeping associations and three commercial beekeeping companies supplied 1.2 tonnes of honey for further distribution among medical staff and vulnerable groups.

The Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking group’s (programme facilitated honey aggregator and exporter company) forty-one rooms hotel-complex is being used as a quarantine zone, the company also supplied food to locals over seventy in two regions of Georgia within a social project ‘Care for Each Other’ initiated after the virus outbreak and is now offering online sales and a free home delivery of its products (wine, compotes, jams, including, honey); the company’s webpage Old Kakheti went online to improve online sales.

These are a few examples and continuation of the kindness acts that started a month ago.

07/05/2020
Liquid Gold Reaches the Market

Referred to as Liquid Gold, for its color and perceived health benefits, Erbo the Georgian word for melted butter is a well-kept secret in Georgia. Traditionally made at home Erbo is much used in local traditional cuisines.  Butter is an important fat in Georgia, very common in Azeri cuisine and in mountainous regions where both the harsh winter climates and distance from markets increased the importance of butter which can be stored, in communities dependent on dairy farming.

Now thanks to Milkeni Ltd who have started to produce and sell Erbo as part of their products made under the Georgian Milk Mark, quality assured Erbo is now available commercially for the first time in Georgia in Madagoni and Libre supermarkets chains. Interest and demand is growing rapidly.

Of all regions, perhaps Ajara is most famous for its use of Erbo. Most traditional Ajarian dishes contain Erbo.  Borano is a dish of melted butter containing traditional Chechili cheese, a dish which been awarded the status of Intangible Cultural Heritage and Khavitsi a sauce made with flour and Erbo.

So what is special about Erbo?  People believe that it is a healthy fat, processed differently and beneficially in the body and is well absorbed in the human body; it does not contain lactose and casein, so it is recommended for those with lactose intolerance. Mountain people believe Erbo boosts metabolism and energy, improving brain function, memory and their immune system.

08/04/2020
New Jara Apiary Successfully Overwintered

In summer 2019, ten new Jara hives were placed in the Goderdzi Alpine Garden (GAG), Jara Beekeeping area, an area which aims to publicize Jara beekeeping and teach people interested in taking it up. With the help of the Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA) they were moved for wintering to Paksadzeebi Village in Khulo last autumn. Last week, all the hives were checked and fortunately, all the bee colonies are alive and working productively.  

This Jara apiary is currently undergoing the Bio certification process and is due to obtain certification in July this year. It will be moved back to the GAG (Goderdzi Pass, 2000m above sea level) in May and be the focal point of Jara beekeeping workshops for school students and garden visitors.

The Goderdzi Alpine Garden is a tourist and environmental hub in the rural part of Ajara, Western Georgia. It involves and develops a sense of ownership for rural inhabitants in the field of biodiversity and environment, showcases the beauty and ecological assets of rural Ajara and generates added value from rural tourism for locals.    


08/04/2020
Distribution Permits for Producers during COVID-19

The Government of Georgia declared a curfew on March 30th, 2020 to restrict the spread of the COVID-19 virus which imposes restrictions on the movement of transport from 9:00 PM to 06:00 AM. However, producers and distributors of key commodities may apply to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture (MEPA) for a permit to continue distribution. The Business Institute of Georgia (BIG) is currently helping GMM dairies to apply for this permission.

To gain permission follow these instructions:

  • A producer/distributor should contact the MEPA on the hotline number - 247 01 01 or 1501 - and provide information about their activities and the need for permission.
  • The MEPA will send the applicant an email address and an application form to send to this address. The application form requires information about the distribution driver (ID number, name, surname, date of birth, phone number, workplace and title) and distribution car (registration number of vehicle, brand, model, type, ID number of a company who is the owner of a vehicle, a type of business).
  • The MEPA will respond to the company about issuing permission.
  • After that, the company should call the Emergency Number 112 and check whether the information about the distribution car and driver is listed in the Ministry of Internal Affairs database.

24/03/2020
The Kindness of Strangers

Amidst the negative news and stories of unthinking behaviour, some stories have emerged globally of people and business who have responded to the crisis with kindness and generosity. These stories fill all of us with a sense of hope and comfort in our ability to work together. So we are delighted to be able to share the stories of some of the ALCP clients who have been contributing to the common good over the past week:

Roki Ltd, the largest veterinary input supplier and producer in Georgia, has started the production of a new hand sanitizer Septer as a response to increased demand. Supplies sold out in a day to banks, the Ministry of Education and clinics and there is a new order for four tonnes of Septer from the government. The company closely cooperated with the government in developing the product trying to use its resources for the benefit of all;

A GMM cheese distributor has organized the collection of cheese from eleven Georgian Milk Mark dairies: Milkeni, Tsintskaro +, Cheese Hut, Shuamta, Tvisis Kveli, Tsifora –Samtkhe, Tsezari, Coop. Khiza, Coop. Disveli, Teleti Ltd, I.E. Hakob Hambaryan and distributed it to theInfectious Diseases and AIDS Center in Tbilisi to support medical staff during the outbreak;

GMM dairy Tsipora Ltd in Samtkhe-Javakheti has supplied cheese to the Abastumani Lung Center.

Tsivis Kveli Ltd Kakheti brought cheese to the hotel Chateau Mere in Kakheti - for those under quarantine;  

The Georgian Beekeepers Union initiated the collection of honey from local beekeepers across the country to supply people in vulnerable groups.

The KTW group offered the government the use of their forty-one rooms hotel-complex Akhasheni Wine Resort &Spa, for arranging a quarantine zone in Kakheti region. 

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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MONITORING, EVALUATION, AND LEARNING POLICY
A Gendered National Honey Sector Survey in Georgia
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