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Greek Woman from Tslaka

A small group of Greeks was settled by Erekle II (King of Kartli and Kakheti in the 18th century) back in 1763 in Kvemo Kartli. They worked in Akhtala copper, lead, silver and gold mines and were highly skilled in this business. The next resettlement took place in 1806-1807, and the following in 1829-1830. Turkish-speaking Greeks as well as Greeks speaking the Pontus dialect were resettled to Georgia. The study of archive materials tells us that the biggest stream of Greek migrants entered Georgia during the aforementioned period and their majority settled in Tsalka and Tetritskaro areas.

Ivetta grew up and studied in Tbilisi, graduated from a cooperative institute and worked in the Central Union of Consumer Cooperatives of Georgia that was part of a large association across the entire USSR. She recalls those times with warm feelings. She says that she was the only Greek amongst a large staff and that her coworkers were gracious with her. Ivetta had Russian education and could speak conversational Georgian.

During the first years following the breakup of the USSR, however, Ivetta’s family suffered all of the difficulties related to the subsequent wars, the instability and the lack of money which this all brought. At first, Ivetta, like the majority of the women of her time, relied on her husband to bring in income and tended to the family and her young children. Her husband then started a job in Tsalka and, after several years, the family moved there with him. The children, who had started schooling at a Georgian school in Tbilisi, faced difficulties in Tsalka where there was no Georgian school and so they had to learn Russian. As soon as the Georgian school opened, however, they moved there. Her son is now 27 and her daughter is 25. They have higher education and belong to both cultures; Georgian from their father’s side and Greek from their mother’s side.

Ivetta started working again as soon as her children grew up. Another contributing factor was the change in governmental language policy that envisaged the keeping of official documents in the State language that caused big shortage of Georgian-speaking staff in Tsalka. Although Ivetta’s Georgian was not perfect, she studied it intensively and she found herself in demand with the need for translation from Russian into Georgian and vice versa . She was not just a good interpreter but also had her own ideas about how to improve things in the work and as a result, she was offered administrative positions such as at the district hospital and the social security department where she took the position of deputy and from where she then moved to her position as Head of Administration in the Executive Office in Tsalka.

Ivetta is originally from the village of Beshtasheni. The village is not far from Tsalka, and she knows and understands the life and conditions in the region. When remembering the past when the Greek community was quite large, Ivetta talks about the old ways of life. There used to be several factories in Tsalka that employed local residents. Men also went to other regions of Georgia and in Russia for seasonal work and women would do the family’s household farming, selling excess crops and upplementing household budgets. They lived well and could provide educations for their children not only in Tbilisi but in Moscow as well. “The Greeks had money!” — Ivetta says and that is why they went back to their historical homeland as soon as opportunity emerged. Migration was spurred by opened borders and the destabilization in Georgia during the 1990’s In addition, the Greek community which did not speak Georgian did not feel comfortable about the change of language policy which made Georgia the official language rather than Russian.

According to some estimates, 90-92 percent of the original Greek residents have left Georgia. There were over twenty-two thousand at one time and, now, there are only one thousand two hundred Greeks left (the current population of Tsalka is about twenty three thousand). The elite, those people with qualifications and money, have left. Many of them, however, did not want to cut ties with Georgia completely and left their houses behind. People wanted to be able to go back to the graves of their ancestors and to pray in Orthodox churches. It was also not advantageous to them to sell their houses because prices in the region, due to the out-migration, were too low.

At the same time internal migration to Tsalka from Ajara and Svaneti was gaining momentum with ecomigration due landslides and avalanches and the search of more suitable conditions for farming. Governmental programmes were also aimed at regulating internal migration, one of them providing assistance to eco-migrants. The government gave subsidies to the dwellers of mountainous areas who had suffered from avalanches, who could then use these resources to buy houses, sometimes supplementing the funding with some of their own money. Several hundred  houses in Tsalka were purchased under this scheme. In the majority of the cases, however, the new settlement was performed in an ad hoc manner. Greek leaving Tsalka left the keys their houses with neighbours and gave them permission to let people who were honest and trustworthy live in their homes. This was mutually beneficial as empty houses would only deteriorate without anyone living in them and land attached to them become unworkable if left uncultivated.

Agreements were mainly informal and conflict is fairly infrequent as the system has benefited all parties. However there is no long term stability for the new dwellers who cannot invest in long term strategies based on property and land they do not own. Most temporary owners, aspire to having their own houses by buying the houses in which they are living or purchasing another. However, the original owners, perhaps influenced by European prices are asking high prices of about 15,000 Euro for the houses which the local temporary residents simply cannot afford.

Ivetta herself has been here for 17 years and over this period she has moved between five different houses. She currently lives in a spacious two-storey house that is owned by a Greek family. Although she works hard and holds a leading position, her family still does not have enough money to buy their own house.

We asked about the rest of the Greek families living here and Ivetta explained that the majority of them fare quite well thanks exclusively to cattle farming with many, since the global financial crisis, providing support to relatives who have gone to Greece. It is clear that the remaining families are facing serious questions related to the future. If they have children, their future will depend upon language which means that they either have to master Georgian or emigrate. Fewer and fewer students now enrol in the Russian school.

We tried to understand how the life of a Greek woman in the region differs from that of other women. Apparently, the main difference is the presence of a ‘window to Europe’. Effectively, every family has relatives there which gives them pride and the opportunity for exposure to life in Europe.

Another difference is the issue of their own houses, Ivetta does not own her own home. A Greek family owns her house. Otherwise, Greek women keep the same way of life other women do and make their living through hard work. There is not even a single independent businesswoman in Tsalka outside the field of farming.

Greek women tend to remain isolated from women of other ethnicities and are not inclined to cooperate with them this might be due to the perception that migrants have lower levels of culture than them and occasional conflicts related to houses. Ivetta, as a public sector worker sees these problems clearly. The isolation of sections of the population due to ethnicity is one of the main problems. Overcoming this problem requires time and it is necessary to have a dynamic, intelligent and people-friendly programme which reaches remote villagers and that would employ real enthusiasts of whom Ivetta is obviously one.

OTHER NEWS
12/11/2021
Sharing of Agricultural Education, Extension Experience with Azerbaijanis Colleagues

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.

02/12/2021
BageBee Beekeeping Regional Center Welcomes Jara

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.

08/10/2020
Ensuring Animal Movement Route Sustainability

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.

29/10/2021
J is for Jara

Jara took an honorable place in the Tourism Alphabet of Ajara, a new campaign implemented by the Department of Tourism and Resorts of Ajara AR. The idea is to link all 33 letters of the Georgian alphabet with attractions, locations, food, and activities worth visiting during the whole year. Jara was selected for the letter J.

Letter J will take tourists to Medzibna Village, Keda, where tourists will feel immersed with Jara hives hidden in nature.

'Jara honey is a unique product, it adds cultural value to our region, so it should be a well-packaged tourism product. So far, nothing has been done by the Department of Tourism to promote Jara, travel agencies and guides do not know much about the product, so linking J with Jara will be the first step toward to Jara promotion and awareness raise from our side' -Tinatin Zoidze, chairwoman of the Department of Tourism and Resorts of Ajara.

To boost the promotion, the Department of Tourism and Resorts of Ajara also developed a short video about Jara that will be advertised through their Facebook pageVisit Batumi, tourism information centers and media channels.

05/10/2021
Bulk, Brand and Niche - Georgian Honey Export Begins to Flow

Rebounding in spite of the pandemic, export markets for Georgian honey are beginning to flow and the volume of honey is growing rapidly. In the first eight months of 2021, 117 tonnes of honey were exported to eleven countries; France, Bulgaria, USA, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. Five times more than the  21.7 tonnes of honey, exported to six countries in 2020.

A major recent development has been the establishment of a contract for wholesale bulk honey between Api Geo Ltd in Samtredia and Naturalim France Miel a large honey company in France. In September, forty-three tonnes of honey was shipped to France. A second order is now being prepared for shipment. Strict testing in France and Germany and a new factory and equipment capable of homogenizing 20t of honey at a time mean that the company is the first in Georgia to able to reliably service such a market.

This is just a start; we hope to export at least 100 tonnes of Georgian honey to France this year. We want to supply from smaller-scale beekeepers which will help them with selling their honey, which has been a problem for years in Georgia.’ - Gia Ioseliani, Founder of Api Geo Ltd.

September was also a fortunate month for Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking (KTW) producers of the Nena Honey brand which includes the first Bio-certified Jara honey in Georgia.  The company has just shipped a second large order of six types of Nena honey to Hong Kong, including chestnut, blossom, alpine, linden, Jara and honey with nuts including Bio Jara honey. Nena Bio Jara honey is also on its way to Doha, Qatar. Overall, since January 2021, the company has increased the volume of honey exported by 110%, compared to 2020, to markets in Canada, USA, Hong Kong, Japan, Azerbaijan and Qatar. 

Bio certification of Jara honey in Ajara is receiving considerable governmental backing.

We are proud that export markets for bio-certified Jara honey are growing and now it is being exported to countries like Japan, the USA, and Canada. We started to support Bio-certification of the Jara Beekeepers Association in 2021 to continue to supply diverse export markets for such a flagship product.’ - Giorgi Surmanidze, Minister of Agriculture of Ajara.  

The Jara Beekeepers Association is consolidating its entry into the Japanese market in partnership with MF Company Ltd. In September they exported honey to be shown at an exhibition in Tokyo in October, after which the next order will be placed.

Japanese consumers are loving Jara honey, some of them told us that it helps them with stomach problems. We believe that this exhibition in Tokyo will open up new opportunities for the Jara Beekeepers Association.’ - William Pratt, Co-founder of MF Company Ltd.  

24/08/2021
Fourth Georgian Milk Mark (GMM) Dairy Exports to the USA

Dairy Enterprise Leanka Ltd from Kakheti region sent 837 kg different types of cheese (Sulguni, Smoked Sulguni, Georgian cheese) via the exporter company Geoproduct Ltd for sale in New York and Philadelphia, USA. The dairy is a member of the Georgian Milk Mark the quality assurance label for Georgian natural milk and its products bare the GMM. The company expects further increased orders in the near future.


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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