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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
10/06/2020
Georgian Milk Mark on National TV

From the beginning of June, the two most popular national TV stations Imedi TV and TV Pirveli have been broadcasting the Georgian Milk Mark (GMM) animation video five times a day during prime time for free as a part of social advertising. Those televisions have national coverage reaching a high number of consumers.

There are now ten GMM dairy enterprises’ products available in fifteen supermarket chains across Georgia. Detailed information to be found on www.georgianmilk.ge.

22/05/2020
New Beekeeper Info Links Launched

On the May 20th, 4,400 beekeepers registered in the new GBU database received an SMS notification from the Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU) on how to treat Varroa, the most common bee disease in Georgia.

The GBU will continue informing its members through phone Facebook. And their new official webpage is now online: www.geobeekeepers.ge.

Created in 2018, the GBU is an umbrella association uniting ten beekeeping associations and three commercial beekeeping companies.

 

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.    


LATEST NEWS
Local TV launched in Tsalka
16/06/2022
On June 16th the Journalism Resource Centre celebrated the opening of the first local TV media TOK TV in Tsalka municipality. Three local journalists attended journalism courses on reporting for one month. As Tsalka is a multiethnic municipality the journalists represent Georgian, Azerbaijani and Armenian communities. ‘We will report on the issues that are important in increasing transparency and accountability among the general population and local officials. Reports related to agricultural issues will be one of the main topics for our work. Local people will be engaged in the decision-making around ongoing local development. Especially, this is important after the newly opened tourist attraction in Dashbashi Canyon.’ - Local Journalist Nazi Meshveliani said.
Switzerland and Austria Celebrating jointly their 30th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations with Georgia
24/06/2022
    On June 22nd, On the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Switzerland and Georgia, as well as Austria with Georgia, Ambassador of Switzerland to Georgia, H. E. Heidi Grau and Ambassador of Austria to Georgia, H. E. Thomas Muehlmann planted a tree in the Goderdzi Alpine Garden. The Minister of Agriculture of Ajara AR, Zaza Shavadze and the Deputy Mayor of Khulo, Nadim Vasadze joined the event. The Goderdzi Alpine Garden is an important tourist destination in mountainous Ajara and a testimony of biodiversity and cultural richness of the region. Both ambassadors picked up on the theme of needing to balance development with sustainability and care for nature and that the garden is an excellent example of this. While the Director of Batumi Botanical Garden, Irakli Archaia emphasized the importance of the garden and initiated the idea of copying the model of the garden in other municipalities. The minister of Agriculture of Ajara, Zaza Shavadze stated thatcreating and supporting new opportunities for rural development is the key goal of the strategic framework of relations of Switzerland and Austria with Ajara region. H.E. Heidi Grau noted the excellent results achieved by ALCP in creating job and income opportunities for the rural population, including by supporting the production of Jara honey, and was pleased to announce that ‘Switzerland is engaging in a new phase of the ALCP project, together with Austria and joined by Sweden, until 2026, with a total budget of USD 6.5 million. This will allow to further facilitate production in beekeeping, dairy and meat, wild botanicals and silk, as well as support the development of the Goderdzi Botanical Garden, for the benefit of women and men living in mountainous regions,’ Ambassador of Switzerland to Georgia, H. E. Heidi Grau said. The delegation visited Wool House in Klde Village, Samtskhe-Javakheti, the Georgian Milk Mark dairy enterprise, Natural Produktsia Ltd in Dioknisi Village, Khulo and honey processing factory, Agro Keda Ltd. The Austrian Ambassador H.E. Thomas Muehlmann underlined, that support in further development of the wool sector, as well as support in uniting the voices of beekeepers through support to their professional union created new opportunities for development for the rural population. ‘Support to rural and local development is a key aim of the new framework strategy of Austria with Georgia. We believe, that with joint efforts European countries will bring more experience and novelties to Georgia, which will trigger further development of the country,’ Austrian Ambassador H.E. Thomas Muehlmann said.
Georgian Milk Mark Dairies on Show
04/05/2022
The Cheese and Tea Exhibition showcasing Georgian traditional, as well as foreign produce was held at Mtatsminda Park on May 1st, 2022. Ten dairies with the Georgian Milk Mark (GMM) - Milkeni, Tsintskaro +, Meskhuri Gemo, Bebo’s Kveli, Suamta, Leanka, Alpuri Javakheti, Dertseli’s Nobati, Naturaluri Rdzis Gemo, Tsezari presented their products at the event organized by Anna Mikadze-Chikvaidze, the Head of the Cheese Producers Guild. Visitors tasted cheese and got to know about the GMM. Butter with spices, a new product by Milkeni, was their favourite. ‘The GMM contributed a lot to make this event happen. I am thankful to them for giving me an opportunity to discover amazing products, like butter with spices. I am glad that the GMM promotes raw milk production’ - Event founder Anna Mikadze-Chikvaidze praised the development of the GMM in her Facebook posts. Created in 2019, the GMM has twenty dairies currently using the mark. The GMM products are available in Madagoni, Spar, Tserti, Magniti, Smart, Ori Nabiji, Nikora, Zgapari, Fresco, Carrefour, Goodwill, Daily, Billion and Willmart supermarket chains. A comprehensive online portal www.georgianmilk.ge provides a profile per enterprise allowing consumers to look up the products they are buying using a unique registration number printed on the label.         
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Sheep Dipping Guidelines
Georgian Traditional Beekeeping: Jara Honey Production GEO
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Bi Annual Report April 2021 to September 2021