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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.

OTHER NEWS
25/07/2019
Expanding the Women’s Rooms Success to Armenia

The Women’s Room in Alaverdi municipality, Armenia was officially opened on the 25th of July by the Governor of Lori Province, Andrey Ghukasyan, the Head of Alaverdi Municipality, Sasun Khemuchyan and the ALCP Team Leader, Helen Bradbury. The Head of the Department of Family, Women and Youth of the Ministry of Labour and Social Issues, the Head of the Municipality, the representative of Association of Lawyers, local businesswomen and other guests attended the opening ceremony. The Mayor of Keda Municipality of Ajara region and the Manager of Women’s Room in Keda were invited, representing one of the most successful Women’s Rooms in Georgia. Keda and Alaverdi Municipalities forged links when the representatives of Alaverdi Municipality were invited to the Women's Business Forum held in Batumi, Ajara in March, 2018. 

“This service is very important for women and their families to improve their business skills. I would like to thank all of the initiators and supporters of the project and I am ready to discuss the opening of this service in other municipalities as well” - Andrey Ghukasyan, Governor of Lori Province.

“The Idea of the opening of the Women’s Room in Alaverdi came when we visited the Women’s Room in Keda, Ajara region three years ago. The Alliances Caucasus Programme expressed their readiness to share their experience with us how to establish and operate the WR. This service will help women with accessing resources and training to get finances for their businesses. When we help women, we strengthen their families’ Sasun Khemuchyan, the Head of Alaverdi Municipality.

Photo Source: Facebook page of Women's Room in Armenia

21/06/2019
Facilitating Funds for Women

All the managers of the municipal Women’s Rooms and representatives of the Governor’s office in Kakheti region attended a training on Business Plan Writing and Fundraising held by the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA) with ALCP facilitation. For three days George Turkia and Nikoloz Abuashvili, full professors of GIPA, explained how to transform ideas into real plans and where to find the money for them.

‘This was the most interesting training I have ever had. A lot of women are coming to my room with business ideas but I cannot provide help because of lack of knowledge. Now I am full of enthusiasm and ready to help them. It is also important for me that helping women with starting businesses in rural areas will be supported by the local government through the Women’s Room. We will make it happen’ – Bela Marukashvili, the Women’s Room Manager in Akhmeta municipality.

Background information: Twenty-eight municipalities of Ajara, Kvemo Kartli, Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kakheti have established free information-consultation spaces - Women’s Rooms to support women’s equal participation at local decision making fora and their economic empowerment. In 2016 the Women’s Rooms in Ajara pioneered to help rural women with applying to the government grant programmes and after a year the model was copied by Kvemo Kartli and Samtskhe-Javakheti as well. To date 88 women business start-ups have been funded through the Women’s Rooms in Georgia.


22/05/2019
Georgian Honey in London

Honey and bee products of four Georgian companies were exhibited at the event WORLD BEE DAY COMES TO LONDON on 21st of May, in the Conway Hall by the initiative of the Embassy of Slovenia to the UK.

The Embassy of Georgia to the UK organized a stand for Georgian companies with the help of the Alliances Caucasus Programme, the Georgian Beekeepers Union, the Jara Beekeepers Association and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Georgian honey was well promoted by the Embassy.

Twenty-seven countries exhibited their bee products. More than 500 guests tasted Georgian honey; Chestnut and Jara honey were one of the favorites.

Photo source: The Embassy of Georgia to the UK

24/04/2019
Spread of 'Georgian Milk Mark'

Seven dairy enterprises are using the Georgian Milk Mark: Milkeni Ltd Rustavi, KK; Tsintskaro + Ltd Tetritskaro, KK; Khiza Ltd Akhaltsikhe, SJ; Badri Gogoladze I.E Bolnisi, KK; Gocha Gagashvili I.E Telavi, Kakheti; Tsolak Grigorian I.E Ninotsminda, SJ; Karen Simonian I.E Akhalkalaki, SJ.  

Six dairy enterprises are being audited: Imeruli Ltd Marneuli, KK; Zekari Ltd Terjola, Imereti; Tsezari Ltd Khulo, AJTsalka KK; JTA Ltd Tsalka, KK; Ramaz Nazrashvili I.E Gori, Shida Kartli; Tanadgoma Gardabani, KK.

The products with the mark are available in Spar; Nikora; Zgapari; Fresco and Madagoni supermarkets’ chain.

Eleven additional dairy enterprises have already applied to use the mark.

Billboards of the mark are on Tsereteli Avenue, in Vake Tbilisi; Rustavi; Kutaisi and Akhaltsikhe.

Information per enterprise is uploaded on a www.georgianmilk.ge. This allows consumers to look up the products they are buying using a unique register number printed on the label.

GMA international marketing company has been conducting a national promotion campaign to introduce the mark to the public and retailers since the end of March. Facebook  of the mark is active with more than 3,000 subscribers/consumers.  

The Georgian Milk Mark is officially registered and serves to distinguish dairy products made from natural milk.

Follow the links on the Georgian Milk MarkFermaAgrinewsImedis DilaRadio MarneuliMarneuli TVGeorgiandairy.orgAgrokavkaz.geInterpressnews.geAmbebi.ge

       

02/04/2019
Masterclass for New Agri Journalism Students

Up to thirty students of the agri journalism course at the journalism department attended a lecture given by the ALCP programme Team Leader Helen Bradbury in the state university. Agriculture and tourism; environmental protection, preservation and biodiversity; the honey, sheep and dairy sectors; Georgia’s rich cultural heritage and its main treasure - people/farmers with their strong traditions were the main themes of the lecture.

All the students highlighted that the lecture was inspirational, they did not know many things, found different perspectives of agriculture and environment and they will report about the themes in the future.

Agriculture is about people and you should do your work with your heart if you want people to be opened to you. Try to understand the process and choose your own path. Be different and always find something new that no one else can see.’ - Helen Bradbury, Team Leader of the ALCP programme.

Since spring fifty-three students have been learning agri journalism as a selective module for two hours/week, during the whole semester at the state university. 

We see more and more reports about agriculture but it is not enough. Reporting about rural life, people and agriculture is very important and it is our and your responsibility to think about it and be more enthusiastic as you are future journalists or media managers.’ - Natia Kuprashvili, Head of the Journalism Resource Center.

Fourteen universities in Georgia, four in Armenia and one in Azerbaijan established or are establishing agri journalism module in their courses. 369 students have already studied the course.

20/03/2019
Spread of Honey Promotion Video

The ALCP facilitated the Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU) in development of the honey promotion video, depicting the story of Georgia as a land of the oldest honey discovered and unique biodiversity to support awareness raising and promote export potential of Georgian honey and Jara. The video was shared with different stakeholders and social networks.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs shared it with their internal networks of embassies in Georgia and foreign countries and it was uploaded in a Georgian production section. The video is on Facebook of the  Embassy of Switzerland in Georgia. The Georgian National Tourism Agency; The Department of Tourism and Resorts of Ajara; the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture; and The Agency of Protected Areas are sharing it with their network.

It has reached the highest views on the popular Facebook platforms Marketer.ge and Georgian WineTo date the video has 185,000 views and 6,000 shares. The majority of the viewers are emphasizing on interesting story mentioned in the video they did not know before and are sharing it for further promotion.

LATEST NEWS
The First International Agri Journalism Conference
14/04/2021
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.
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.  
LATEST PUBLICATIONS
Honey Sector Development 2017-2020
Productivity in ALCP Dairy Supply - Impact Assessment
Meat Market Survey April 2021