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EU support empowers rural women: Success stories of three female entrepreneurs in Keda


In modern progressive societies women’s economic empowerment is considered to be one of the important factors for reducing the world poverty. Economic empowerment of women is unconditionally linked to improved access to various services, economic resources and opportunities, which is a prerequisite for the development of the world, a particular country, city or village.

In fact, women play an important role in developing various fields of economy, including agriculture, but researches show that their contribution remains largely unnoticed. On the one hand, often women don’t see themselves as entrepreneurs and limit their roles within internal family duties. On the other hand, there are some tangible barriers, such as poorly developed infrastructure, household difficulties, limited access to transport and modern energy resources, or even stereotypes in some cases, which hinder women’s economic participation.

While reports and researches indicate the gender disparities in rural areas, and the relevant structures discuss the causes and consequences of this inequality, there are rural women who do not fear challenges and are willing to take risks to achieve their goals. Despite having extensive list of obligations, many women still do not lose focus on progress and development. They embrace existing opportunities, or if necessary, create new ones. They learn and strive to achieve the desired goal to have their own business and income.

The European Union supports women’s empowerment in Georgia. Women’s involvement in rural economic activities is one of the priorities of the European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development, ENPARD. Within ENPARD’s rural development projects, a large number of women are proactively engaged in Local Action Groups (LAGs) established with EU support so far in eight municipalities of Georgia, while many more are developing their own businesses in rural areas.

What could encourage women to launch their economic activities independently? What can give motivation to women to successfully run a business? To answer these questions, below we share the success stories of three EU-supported female entrepreneurs living in Keda municipality of Adjara. We follow the examples of the women who have launched their business initiatives in Adjarian highlands and at the same time inspired economic novelties and quests for local development.

Apart from running the rural development-oriented business, all three women are united by the common activities that are directed towards developing their municipality. Each of them is involved in the activities of the Keda LAG, the main goal of which is to strengthen the economic potential of Keda and to optimize the utilization of local resources. In addition, the Keda LAG aims to diversify local economic activities by attracting investments and promoting competitive agricultural and environmental practices through participatory and strategic rural development.

The LAG has been implementing its activities with EU support under the ENPARD programme. The project in Keda municipality is implemented in partnership with the Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (CENN), the Center for Strategic Research and Development of Georgia (CSRDG), Institute of Democracy (IoD) and Austrian Institute for Regional Studies and Spatial Planning (ÖIR).

Manana Dumbadze – the village of Merisi

Keda municipality, with a population of about 21,300 people, is part of an autonomous republic of Adjara. Keda is renowned with unique varieties of grape, natural resources, healing and mineral waters. This is the municipality with rich history, which is also distinguished with the unique folklore. Like many other families in Keda, the folklore fills everyday life of Manana Dumbadze’s family, but importantly, it has also become a key to success of her own business.

Manana Dumbadze leads a unique guesthouse “Mokvare” in the village of Merisi. Her family has been hosting tourists by traditional hospitality and delicious Adjarian cuisine. But this is not only what makes “Mokvare” a unique place. Manana’s business is closely linked with his husband’s folk ensemble, which also has the same name “Mokvare”.

Everything started about ten years ago. A guest from the Folklore Center of Tbilisi, who was interested in exploring the old traditional songs in the village of Merisi, visited Manana’s family. Later, the charmed guests invited the family to attend a special event in Tbilisi. One of the participants of the event was so fascinated by the songs of Merisi that she offered to visit Manana’s family in Merici and share their experience with them. Then everything developed quickly – Manana’s husband brought together his relatives and created music ensemble, while Manana’s father-in-law remembered and restored old Merisian songs, and finally the family welcomed guests from around the world.

While ten years ago Manana hosted only one group of guests, this year she hosted seven. With the state support and her savings, the young lady managed to build a cottage that enables her to host tourists for few days and to offer them various services.

Besides listening to folklore songs at Manana’s place, the guests can also take tours to Adjarian highlands, where they can learn old folklore songs from local men and taste dishes prepared by Adjarian grandma. When they come back from the mountains, Manana meets them with the cuisine filled with diverse and natural products and if desired, gives cooking workshops. The diverse landscape of Merisi enables the family to offer picnics to the guests or even visit beautiful waterfalls.

Manana Dumbadze hosts not only folklore groups. When the cottage is free, the doors are open to all tourists from different countries. Some of them come to have lunch, while others come to listen some music and spend the evening pleasantly.

“Our house is 100 years old and visitors’ demand to stay here is very high. The guests ask us not to remake the house and maintain its traditional face. When we have too many visitors and there is no place at our cottage, we offer the guests to stay at our old house. We have hosted even the groups of 45-50 people. We tell guests in advance that our space is limited, but they are still willing to stay”, says Manana Dumbadze.

Manana runs her hotel business independently. Folklore groups from Germany, France, the United States, Ireland, Austria, Australia, Canada and many other countries visit Dumbadze family. Often, people return to Manana’s place for the second, even for the third time. Number of people visiting Manana’s guesthouse has increased significantly over the years and accordingly the family is thinking about expansion – to reinvest their profit and offer larger-scale services to visitors.

“Being a member of the Keda Local Action Group has helped me a lot in setting the strategic goals and identifying the needs. I was attending the meetings and trainings, from which I have learnt a lot. Without communicating with competent people, it would have been more difficult to start a new business from a scratch. Having acquired some experience by LAG membership, today I can make all calculations – what to do, when and how”, says Manana Dumbadze.

At the same time Manana makes significant contribution to the development of other people lives in rural areas. She often participates in conferences and meetings organized by the Keda LAG, where she shares her experience to others and calls on them to create something new, to be more proactive and participate in local developments.

“I would like to tell Georgian women that there are no obstacles, there is no “I am a woman and I can’t do it”. We shall take risks and do our utmost. I believe that hard work sooner or later it will give fruits. I am proud that I am a woman and that I can be successful in my business with the support of my family. I call on everyone to try hard and achieve their goals. I started from zero. I was very scared. But I’ve had some luck as well”, says Manana.  

Nadejda Jabanidze – the village of Makhuntseti

“I’m a curious person. I have interest in almost everything and am constantly willing to learn more. I try to use my knowledge and experience for the development of my business” , says 61 years old Nadejda Jabnidze, another female member of the Keda Local Action Group.

The experience acquired by LAG’s trainings and meetings turned to be useful for the development of Nadejda’s farming activities. Today she successfully leads the farm that includes seven cows and four cattle. She produces milk, curds and sells the milk products at her café.

Nadejda Jabanidze used to dance when she was young. Then she married her choreographer and started living with her family in the village of Makhuntseti of Keda municipality. That year she was accepted into the Batumi Pedagogical Institute and after graduation she was employed in the local government. At the same time Nadejda was working as a Russian language teacher at school. During the same period she become a mother.

Nazzjada Jabnidze lived with her parents in Daba Keda before she got married. The girl was always interested in tacking care of cattle. It was her hobby and while visiting her grandmother she was learning how to do livestock farming. It turned out that the family of her husband was not fond of cattle but Nadejda was very eager and managed to have 2-3 cows in the family, as she could not otherwise imagine her rural life.

Besides the years of experience, Nadejda believes that she started true framing activities about 5 years ago, when she found finances, bought 5 local cows and arranged an animal stall in accordance with modern standards. At that time, Nadejda had been working at the Department of Statistics of Batumi for 20 years and had little time for family and livestock. But she decided to spend less time at work and pay more attention to her farming activities. Since then Nadejda has been completely concentrated on her business. That is why losing the office job has never had a negative impact on her – morally or financially.

Currently Nadejda Jabanidze owns 11 cattle and produces milk, curd and a cream, which also is a dairy product and people in Adjara call it ‘Kaimaghi’. At the same time, she leads café, which is located along the road of Daba Keda. The cafe offers dishes and dairy products prepared by Nadejda to local as well as foreigner guests.

“In my café tourists come from various countries: Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, etc. Usually, they want some coffee, tea and light lunch. It makes me happy when some of my guests know about Khachapuri. They taste my products and buy it very often”, says Nadejda Jabanidze.

As a member of the Local Action Group, Nadejda Jabanidze often attends the meetings that are organized for the LAG members.

“I always share my thoughts and ideas at the meetings of Keda Local Action Group. I am not a member of the board, but they always consider my opinions. Recently, I was invited to Yerevan to participate in the Autumn Festival as an active business woman from Georgia. There I presented my production. While in Yerevan, I learnt a lot from other participants. I am going to use this knowledge to further develop my business”, says Nadejda Jabanidze.

As a result of an active cooperation with the Keda LAG, Nadejda Jabanidze has reviewed her business activities. As of today, Nadejda is able to determine what type of services will be demanded, where it is necessary to invest, what measures should be taken to attract more interest towards Keda, which in turn determines the advancement and development of the municipality.

“I think I have to some extent contributed to the development of the municipality. I am already famous in our community as a businesswoman. I hope to be more successful in future”, says Nadejda Jabanidze.

Tina Tebidze – the village of Pirveli Maisi

Tina Tebidze is a coffee lover. Several years ago she realized that only mixed coffee was available on the market. She missed the taste of pure coffee. Tina founded finances, bought a coffee powder grinding machine and launched a new business in December of 2016. Currently, Tina Tebadze is heading a small coffee processing factory, selling her own packaged coffee at the local market.

“After two years of work, I see that this is not a bad business at all, on the contrary – it is quite profitable. Of course I cannot become a millionaire by producing and selling coffee, but I am very satisfied with myself and my business. I see that consumption of my product is growing day by day. Consumers are also very satisfied despite the fact that the packing solution for my coffee is very simple and I do not make advertisement of it”, says Tina Tebidze.

Tina Tebidze considers that her coffee continues growing in popularity because of high quality. Despite the fact that Tina knows how to make fake coffee it is important for her always to produce pure and quality coffee.

“Whatever coffee I drink, my client should drink the same – this is the main thing for me”, says Tina.

In parallel with her own business, Tina Tebidze is also involved in other very important activities – she is a head of Keda District Department of Adjara Employment Agency, which means that she helps local people find jobs. In addition, Tina has rich experience in working on gender issues and is also a member of the gender council. The start-up entrepreneur was always actively involved in the public life, worked in the local self-government, and was the chairman of the financial-budget committee too.

“I think that’s why I joined the Local Action Group. Lots of my good and experienced friends are members of LAG. I wanted to join them too. Now we discuss many important issues together, attend meetings, trainings and try to make the best decisions for the development of our municipality. At the same time, the LAG plays an important role inmy personal development. Having relationship with competent people, who are the members of the LAG, helped me to lead my business successfully. I can address them anytime freely and they will help me in making the right decision for sure”, says Tina Tebidze.

At first, the coffee production was an opportunity for Tina to increase her income. Then, she became motivated by the desire to make quality coffee available to people living in the municipality. Now, for her it is important to showcase that women can successfully manage business activities.

Now that she has achieved her goals, Tina thinks about expanding her business. She hopes that in the future she will manage to sell labeled coffee on the larger market.

Keda Local Action Group

Keda Local Action Group has united Manana, Nadejda and Tina since 2017, when the implementation of European model of rural development, so called LEADER approached was launched in the municipality with the support of EU’s ENPARD programme.

LEADER is a local rural development method which has been actively used in European countries since the 1990’s. As a French acronym (Liaison Entre Actions de Développement de l’Économique Rurale) LEADER means “Links between actions for the development of the rural economy”. The main principle of LEADER is to facilitate rural development by establishing partnerships between the public, private, and civil society sectors and empowering their efforts. The method involves strengthening rural areas by delivering local strategies and resource allocation. The main instruments of the LEADER approach are Local Action Groups (LAG) — which enable local people to make decisions concerning local socio-economic, cultural, and environmental issues. LEADER involves establishing links to share knowledge and experience and uniting local communities around a common goal.

These three women joined the Keda LAG at the time of its formation. Along with them, up to 300 members joined forces to contribute to the development of the municipality. The recruitment process of the group was open, and all interested parties could fill the application and express desire to become the LAG member.

After the formation of the Local Action Group, within the ENPARD project, the Rural Development Strategy with gender and youth aspects for Keda Municipality was to be developed. In accordance with the priority directions, the ENPARD project also included implementation of innovative projects; to strengthen economic and investment opportunities in rural areas as a result of EU grant competitions; promoting inclusive economic growth and improving the welfare of local communities.

Since December 2017, the officially registered and structured Keda Local Action Group drafted and adopted a Local Development Strategy for Keda. Currently, the third stage of the project – EU’s rural development grant competition is underway.

The first stage of the grant competition, the phase of generating project ideas, has already been completed. Now the beneficiaries who moved to the second stage have to submit their applications for funding.

The members of the Keda Local Action Group represent private as well as public and civil sectors. They have already elected a 15-member managing board, one chairman and two co-chairmen.

Different sectoral directions are presented in the LAG: agriculture, tourism, environmental protection, biodiversity and forest, youth involvement in rural development, healthcare and social issues, empowerment of the women.

Up to 300 members of the LAG are distributed to these different sectoral groups following to their activities and interests. Each sectoral group has its coordinator. Each sectoral direction has its own working regulation. Coordinator works on the working regulation together with the members of the LAG.

It is important to note that all 300 members of the LAG have been actively involved in the process of elaboration of Keda Local Development Strategy. Working meetings were organized according to the sectoral groups. The priority directions defined by the strategy were determined exactly by the LAG members and the governing board. At the same time, the LAG has its own action plan under which various types of activities are implemented: educational or environmental activities; working with young people and women, etc. These meetings are often organized by the LAG members.

“The main benefit of the LAG members is that they contribute to the development of their municipality, their village. They are actively involved in the process of decision making of the municipality’s development. The general meeting of LAG members is held once every six months. At the general meeting, the members get acquainted with the planned activities, strategy priorities or results. The winners of the grant competitions are revealed by the members, who are also eligible to participate”, says Nino Gaprindashvili, Manager of Keda LEADER programme.

Local Action Group pays an important role in empowering women living in the Keda municipality. First of all, the LAG itself unites many active women, who run their own businesses. With the EU support and with the knowledge and experience gained from being a LAG member, these women manage to further expand their businesses. The Local Action Group also supports women’s involvement in the development of rural areas with the activities such as training for entrepreneur women, training for organizational or financial management, project writing, development of business ideas, etc. These trainings foster women’s ability to further develop and expand their business ideas. Besides, EU’s partner organization CENN often involves active women in various festivals, forums at both local and international levels. The main result of the Keda LAG is the 2018-2022 strategy, which sets out priority directions for the development of the municipality. The EU-funded rural development initiatives are and will in future be carried out based on these priority areas.

Author: Tea Ghvinadze