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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
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. 

16/03/2020
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.


21/02/2020
Honey Quality Levels Continue to Rise

As part of  the agreement which allows Georgian Honey to be exported to the EU, the government annually carries out a Residue Monitoring survey.  Worryingly high residues of prohibited antibiotics were found in previous years (see infographic below).  2019 however saw  national information campaign carried by the Georgian Beekeepers Union, who developed and disseminated Do’s and Don’ts Antibiotic Use Infographic and facilitated breakthrough legislation adopted by the Government of Georgia, which prohibits registration of the beekeeping vet medicines containing restricted antibiotics, among others. As a result, this year, only eight percent of honey samples tested positive for prohibited substances, compared to fifty-four percent of the last year, according to the Residue Monitoring Plan results, made by the National Food Agency in the BIOR laboratory in Riga, Latvia.

It is a significant achievement for Georgian honey export opportunities and expanding markets.

                             

05/02/2020
The Jara Honey Mark Registered

The Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA) has registered the Jara honey mark in the National Intellectual Property Centre of Georgia - Sakpatenti

The mark ensures the protection of Jara honey from falsification and represents a quality compliance guarantee verified by the JBA who are dedicated to preserving traditional beekeeping practices based on  Quality Assurance Standards developed by the JBA last year.  

In 2018, Jara honey was commercially harvested and packaged according to the standards for the first time. This year it was exported to the United Arab Emirates and the export market is growing.

20/12/2019
The Georgian Milk Mark Cheese at the Georgian Cheese and Wine Evening

On 16th of December 2019, the Georgian Milk mark organized a Georgian Cheese and Wine evening at 8000 Vintages to introduce cheese with Georgian Milk mark (GMM) to the supermarkets and encouraged them to pass information on the advantages of GMM cheese to consumers. Cheese with Georgian Milk mark does not contain milk powder or any vegetable oils, it has laboratory analysis and is produced in the enterprises which are HACCP certified.

The Guests had the opportunity to taste different types of cheese made from natural raw milk produced by thirteen enterprises: Milken Ltd, Tsintskaro + Ltd, I.E Hakob Hambaryan, I.E Karen Simonyan, I.E Tsolak Grigoryan, Tsifora –Smatskhe Ltd, Tsalka +Ltd, Dairy Products Company Tsezari Ltd, Gocha Gagashvili – brand name Tsivis Kveli, Levan Bejanishvili-brand name Shuamta, Badri Gogoladze – brand name Cheese Hut, Coop. Tanadgoma, Coop. Disvelli. The Information per enterprise is available on www.georgianmilk.ge. The website allows consumers to look up the products they are buying using a unique register number printed on a label.

The evening of Georgian Cheese and Wine was attended by Mr. Levan Davitashvili, the Minister of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia, by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation Project Alliances Caucasus Program (ALCP) implemented by Mercy Corps, Georgian Milk Mark Project Administrator - Business Institute of Georgia and Marketing Company GMA Representative, the supermarkets and the dairies using the Georgian Milk mark.

The evening was headed by Zaza Grigalashvili, an '8000 Vintages' Sommelier, who spoke about Georgian cheese and wine pairing.

Helen Bradbury, ALCP Team Leader: ‘We have private sector cheese enterprises in the room from different regions, these are a real dairy businesses operating for years and years. It is very important that this is Georgian Milk from Georgian cows who eat Georgian grass. Consumers want to eat natural, healthy, good country food which comes from this beautiful land, from this beautiful clean water, from happy cows and are made in communities living in countryside.  Today we are at 8000 Vintages and we all know the history of wine. If you want ‘Qvevri’ wine or European style wine we know from where it comes from its name and the consumer can choose according wine value and its good for the producer, they can add more value and then this value goes back to the jobs, factories in the communities. So in the dairy sector it is going to be the same: as cheese will have the name, taste, value, style and its started to develop, the money supporting these factories goes back to women who are supplying milk, their families, they are putting money to their children education and investing in their life'. 

Levan Davitashvili, The Minister of MEPA: ‘I think the most difficult sector in Georgia is adairy sector and we have a lot to do together. A good presentation of a final product the market and how we bring cheese to the consumer is very important. We can say that competition between the enterprises is unfair, but we work on this via new the regulations to change the situation in the sector, we also empower our laboratories to have better quality and safe products. Today we have Georgian Milk mark presentation which is a very good idea for providing information to the consumers about dairy products, which also gives advantages to producer'.

The Products with the mark are available in Madagoni, Spar, Ori Nabiji, Nikora, Zgapari, Fresco, Carrefour, and Goodwill supermarket chains.

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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