Women working in the agricultural sector of Georgia have limited access to important resources such as land, agricultural inputs, new technologies and financing opportunities, as well as information, extension services and training opportunities. According to recent state data, only 23% of the recipients of state agricultural extension services were female.
To help rural women improve agricultural knowledge, and enhance their farms’ production and raise their standard of living, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the European Union (EU) are supporting female farmers in Georgia by teaching and demonstrating the best agricultural practices. The project is implemented under the European Neighborhood Programme for Agricultural and Rural Development (ENPARD).
Direct support to women farmers is multidimensional, and encompasses FAO’s guidance from establishing demonstration plots and Farmer Field Schools to helping make the best decisions for improving crop qualities and increasing incomes. These non-stop activities – which are ongoing even amid the COVID-19 pandemic – have been taking place in the municipalities of Lagodekhi, Dedoplistskaro, Akhalkalaki, Tetritskaro, Keda, Akhmeta, Tsalka, Tskaltubo and Keda. Enhancing the rural population, particularly its female members, is part of the FAO-EU support to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia in the implementation of the gender inclusive National Strategy for Agricultural Extension 2018-2020.
Luda Manuilova, 39, is one of the project beneficiaries. She owns 50 hectares of agricultural land near the Tamariani village of the Lagodekhi municipality. She grows maize. For two years, Luda has been closely working with FAO agronomists and experts and experimenting with conservation agriculture practices. As a result of her cooperation with the FAO, her maize plot now gives improved quality yields with reduced production cost, thereby perfectly demonstrating the advantages of minimum-tillage which requires less fuel consumption and less land preparation time. Moreover, she started sharing her experience and acquired knowledge with her fellow farmers in the community, as well as providing mechanization services and other agricultural supplies to them. “I am always happy to motivate other farmers in my community, especially women. I’m willing to show them how to adopt new practices and improve their yields,” Manuilova said.
FAO agronomists have also been working actively with female farmers in the Internally Displaced People (IDP) settlements of Georgia. Farmer Inga Beruashvili, 52, had to flee her home following the 2008 Russian-Georgian conflict. She started her new life and agricultural production from scratch with 0.3 hectares of agricultural land in the Koda IDP settlement, located in Kvemo Kartli.
She arranged an exemplary demonstration plot where she grows vegetables. With FAO and EU support, she implemented climate-smart agriculture practices, including mulching, bed formation, and drip irrigation, thus increasing crop resilience to drought, flooding and other climate change consequences. With the support from the farmers’ Information and Consulting Centre of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia, Beruashvili was linked to the local mechanization service providers significantly accelerating her production. Now she shares these best practices with her neighbors and is focused on engaging other IDP women of the Koda settlement in similar activities.
Georgia’s mountainous region of Adjara is another area which presents challenges for FAO agronomists to support female farmers in. Rural smallholder Tsiuri Beridze, 53, cultivates every single centimeter of her 0.05 ha (500 m2) plot in the village of Keda where the agricultural land is quite limited. She was one of the first female farmers in her community who volunteered to learn about the new agricultural practices and technologies from the FAO agronomists. She vigorously enriched her substantial experience of tomato production and took the full advantage of producing vegetable seedlings in trays, arranging ridges and mulch, as well as using transplanters for seedlings, a process which ultimately saved her a lot of hard, physical work.
“Manual transplanting turns work into suffering, but from FAO and EU programme experts I’ve learnt that it can be done in a smarter and easier way. Looking at me, my neighbors also decided to buy transplanters for the next season. This is just one small development along with a lot of useful information and tips that professional agronomists provided for us,” Beridze said.
Along with the capacity development of the female farmers in Georgia’s remote districts, the FAO and EU are also implementing a series of gender training sessions for the state agricultural extension specialists. More than 100 people participated in the training program, which was aimed at equipping the extensionists with the necessary tools for mainstreaming gender into their work. The program was conducted in seven different municipalities of Georgia during February 2020.
FAO experts provided the training participants with information and theoretical concepts on gender and gender mainstreaming. Based on the knowledge obtained through the program, the extensionists are expected to design and deliver quality advice to the farmers in a gender sensitive way.
The European Union supports rural development in Georgia through its ENPARD Programme. Aiming at reducing rural poverty, ENPARD has been implemented since 2013, with a total budget of 179.5 million euros. The first phase of ENPARD focused on developing national agriculture potential, while the second and third phases focus on creating economic opportunities for the rural population that go beyond agricultural activities. More information on ENPARD is available at: www.enpard.ge.