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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.

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30/05/2021
Continuous Teaching from the GBU

On May 27th-28th, more than two thousand beekeepers in all regions of Georgia attended a training on bee treatment practices as a response to the massive bee colonies collapse this year. The Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU) initiated and advocated the first nationwide trainings with the Rural Development Agency (RDA) based on the online research data gathered. The GBU developed a trainer’s handbook and Varroa Treatment guideline, which was translated and available for Azerbaijani and Armenian beekeepers; and delivered a Training of Trainers for eighty-five beekeepers. 

‘Beekeepers received important information about new methodology how to treat Varroa. This was the first training organized in coordination with the GBU, which is the main actor in the beekeeping sector and our collaboration will continue.’ – Lasha Shalamberidze, the Head of the Regional Relations Department at the RDA.

‘I think, a key outcome of these trainings is that our Union expanded its team across Georgia. We now have the representatives in each municipality and we will continue teaching and delivering important information to the beekeepers.’Aleko Papava, the Head of the GBU.

26/05/2021
A New Veterinary Surveillance Point in Mtskheta-Mtianeti Region

A seventh Veterinary Surveillance Point (VSP) of the National Food Agency (NFA) opened recently in Dusheti municipality to serve nomadic farmers migrating on the north part of the Animal Movement Route of Georgia. This is the first and the only VSP in Mtskheta-Mtianeti region, where disinfection of sheep and cattle against ecto-parasites is provided by the State. Up to 100,000 head of sheep will be dipped there during every transhumance season, free of charge.

The point was constructed by the NFA following the petition of shepherds from the region at the ALCP’s 11th Advisory Committee meeting and was approved by the Minister of Environmental Protection & Agriculture – Levan Davitashvili in March 2019, based on the positive benefits of the existing points.

In 2015 the VSP model was created by the ALCP commissioned British livestock expert Edward Hamer and an MOU was signed between the Ministry of Agriculture, the NFA and the ALCP to construct six VSPs, two of them were financed by the programme and four by the State. In 2016-2018 all six points were finalized and opened. This year additional water points were also opened on the route. The VSP’s record and monitor the nomadic sheep and cattle population and underpin Georgia’s credibility in livestock export markets.

24/05/2021
Where the streets are paved with gold: Georgian Honey Goes to London

As Dick Whittington found out the London streets are not literally paved with gold. However four Georgian honey companies are participating in a celebration of the liquid kind. The London International Honey Awards held from May 30-31st, have two main award categories: quality and design, and feature honeys from all over the world, from Canada to the Mediterranean to New Zealand and everything in between. Competition is fierce. The four Georgian honey companies, Nena, Rukhi Queen, Honey and Irinola Company and Cooperative Kodi, were supported to participate by the Embassy of Georgia to the UK and the Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU). 

21/05/2021
VET Meets Jara

On May 18th-19th, twelve VET college representatives from seven regions of Georgia attended a Training of Trainers in Jara Honey Production hosted by the Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU) and the Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA) in Keda, Medzibna Village.

The trainees learnt how to teach beekeeping students Jara honey production and how to obtain Bio certification. They also visited a Bio certified Jara apiary and the Agro-Keda factory to see the process of Jara honey processing and packaging.

Akhali Talga VET College in Kobuleti and Khulo, who have already integrated the Jara teaching materials into their one-year beekeeping programme since October 2020, also shared their experience of including and teaching Jara production.  

‘I am happy to attend this training, as I learned a lot. I am ready to teach Jara beekeeping to my students, because it will make our beekeeping programme even more interesting.’ – Ilia Khazarishvili, a lecturer at the Public College Aisi, Kakheti.

‘I am glad that all of the colleges now acknowledge that Jara teaching is an essential part of Georgian beekeeping programmes. During these two days they heard about a wide range of Jara topics, for example, Bio certification, which was impressive for them. Now they are convinced that Jara teaching has a future and this will help them to attract more students to beekeeping. They also saw the demand from businesses after visiting two Jara honey processing entities.’ - Aleko Papava, the Head of the GBU.

The National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement and sectoral skills organization Agro Duo are supporting Jara teaching integration in the VET colleges.

On June 1st, the GBU is organizing an online event Highlights So Far: Jara in VET, which is bringing together VET colleges, specialists, agro journalists, donors, and public officials to further promote Jara teaching in VET colleges and share reflections on the training.


10/05/2021
Jara Attracts International Media

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, an international media organization broadcasting in twenty-seven languages in twenty-three countries, published an article about Jara: Georgia’s Cliff-Top Honey Harvest by an international photographer/journalist Amos Chapple. He reached out to the Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA) and travelled to Ajara to see Jara beekeepers climbing heights for Jara honey harvest. Radio Tavisupleba (Radio Liberty Georgia) also put a Georgian version of the article on its website.


14/04/2021
The First International Agri Journalism Conference

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.

LATEST NEWS
Continuous Teaching from the GBU
30/05/2021
On May 27th-28th, more than two thousand beekeepers in all regions of Georgia attended a training on bee treatment practices as a response to the massive bee colonies collapse this year. The Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU) initiated and advocated the first nationwide trainings with the Rural Development Agency (RDA) based on the online research data gathered. The GBU developed a trainer’s handbook and Varroa Treatment guideline, which was translated and available for Azerbaijani and Armenian beekeepers; and delivered a Training of Trainers for eighty-five beekeepers.  ‘Beekeepers received important information about new methodology how to treat Varroa. This was the first training organized in coordination with the GBU, which is the main actor in the beekeeping sector and our collaboration will continue.’ – Lasha Shalamberidze, the Head of the Regional Relations Department at the RDA. ‘I think, a key outcome of these trainings is that our Union expanded its team across Georgia. We now have the representatives in each municipality and we will continue teaching and delivering important information to the beekeepers.’ – Aleko Papava, the Head of the GBU.
A New Veterinary Surveillance Point in Mtskheta-Mtianeti Region
26/05/2021
A seventh Veterinary Surveillance Point (VSP) of the National Food Agency (NFA) opened recently in Dusheti municipality to serve nomadic farmers migrating on the north part of the Animal Movement Route of Georgia. This is the first and the only VSP in Mtskheta-Mtianeti region, where disinfection of sheep and cattle against ecto-parasites is provided by the State. Up to 100,000 head of sheep will be dipped there during every transhumance season, free of charge. The point was constructed by the NFA following the petition of shepherds from the region at the ALCP’s 11th Advisory Committee meeting and was approved by the Minister of Environmental Protection & Agriculture – Levan Davitashvili in March 2019, based on the positive benefits of the existing points. In 2015 the VSP model was created by the ALCP commissioned British livestock expert Edward Hamer and an MOU was signed between the Ministry of Agriculture, the NFA and the ALCP to construct six VSPs, two of them were financed by the programme and four by the State. In 2016-2018 all six points were finalized and opened. This year additional water points were also opened on the route. The VSP’s record and monitor the nomadic sheep and cattle population and underpin Georgia’s credibility in livestock export markets.
Where the streets are paved with gold: Georgian Honey Goes to London
24/05/2021
As Dick Whittington found out the London streets are not literally paved with gold. However four Georgian honey companies are participating in a celebration of the liquid kind. The London International Honey Awards held from May 30-31st, have two main award categories: quality and design, and feature honeys from all over the world, from Canada to the Mediterranean to New Zealand and everything in between. Competition is fierce. The four Georgian honey companies, Nena, Rukhi Queen, Honey and Irinola Company and Cooperative Kodi, were supported to participate by the Embassy of Georgia to the UK and the Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU). 
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Quality Assurance Standards for the Production of Jara Honey
Honey Sector Development 2017-2020
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