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„Every person tries somehow to create a better tomorrow. Every second day of my life is better thanks to the European Union support!” – The story of Adjarian ecomigrant living in Lagodekhi

„I was getting bored with being dependent on the state and thought maybe I could do something to expand my activities even further. And I did it. I was trying to solve all of my problems and in the meantime I heard about the EU-supported Lagodekhi Local Action Group. Most importantly, I am no longer dependent on the assistance”, proudly says Tengiz.

The Beridze are Adjarian eco-migrants. Tengiz was born and raised in the region of Khulo. In April 1989, his village was abandoned due to the landslide in Zemo Adjara. In November of the same year, some of the eco-migrants were settled in the village of Heretiskari, in Lagodekhi region and continued their life in the lowland area. Tengiz, who is now a head of cucumber greenhouse, also stayed away from the geologically hazardous zone, however he joined those eco-migrants living in Heretiskari in a little bit later.  

After serving the Soviet Civil Service, Tengiz Beridze began studying at the Georgian Technical University for certain time, but soon he left the university and went to work in Russia. In the neighbouring country he was employed in a company which transported agricultural products. In that period he got married and today his family is his main partner in cucumber production.

„I got married a little late, when I was 35 years old, but better late than never. Now my children are graduating from school”, says Tengiz.

The Beridze family decided to return to Georgia in 2005. Tengiz has lost his left hand due to the certain trauma and could not lead his former work properly. Without thinking too much, the family decided to live in Heretiskari, where they would be surrounded by their relatives. They bought a small house and continued their life in Lagodekhi region.

„I was a typical peasant. My wife and I used to take care of a plot of land around our house, children were going to school. I used to plough the land, plant a little bit of potato, eggplant, tomato and other vegetables, but still were suffering from very difficult social conditions,” said Tengiz.

There are good conditions for vegetable production in Heretiskari. Majority of the population are involved exactly in vegetable gardening. However, for the Beridze family the challenge was the harvesting period and not the barren land.

“The volume of harvested product is high, but we get harvest when the market is already saturated with the similar vegetables. In this case the price of the product is low and accordingly our income is also law. I used to sell an eggplant for 20 tetri, while its cultivation was taking all of my energy and hard work throughout the year”, says Tengzis.

The Beridze family used to receive 200 GEL monthly financial aid from state, as socially vulnerable status holders. In addition, Tengiz was also receiving pension of 100 GEL per month as a disabled person of the second group. However, this amount of money was not enough for a four-person household to survive. The family had low income, but a lot of expenses.

Tengiz Beridze was never lazy about working, he was just striving to improve his living conditions. He knew that there always was a way out from a situation, but had to wait for the proper time. And the time came when Tengiz learnt about European neighbourhood programme for agriculture and rural development – ENPARD.

„I was getting bored with being dependent on the state and thought maybe I could do something to expand my activities even further. And I did it. I was trying to solve all of my problems and in the meantime I heard about the EU-supported Lagodekhi Local Action Group. Most importantly, I am no longer dependent on the assistance”, Tengiz says proudly.

In November 2016, Tenzig Beridze accidently got the booklet that contained information about the EU-supported project. The entrepreneur took the chance and decided to take part in the grant competition. Tengiz had to make an important choice: maintaining the status of socially vulnerable or start a new life and implement his business project. He refused to have the status of socially vulnerable and as a result today he heads the cucumber greenhouse with the financial support of the EU.

Tengiz created the greenhouse development project and submitted to the Lagodekhi Local Action Group for consideration. Jury approved the initiative and Tengiz got the opportunity to undergo retraining course. After the training, Tengiz managed to develop a more detailed and sophisticated business plan. The EU financed his project with 18,000 GEL in summer of the same year.

With the EU support Tengiz built a cucumber greenhouse that span a total area of 800 m2 and is equipped with heating and drip irrigation systems and special techniques. The greenhouse is designed for at least six years of production.

„We have purchased everything that is necessary for the greenhouse. Everything we purchased is very high quality”, says Tengizi.

Energy efficiency is one of the main advantages of Tengizi’s greenhouse. The greenhouse is heated with a special mixture that keeps water at temperatures up to 70 degrees.

Tengiz notes that the training, which he experienced thanks to the Lagodekhi Local Action Group and the EU partner organisation CARE, was very effective. When he finished his business plan, the entrepreneur was trained to learn how to establish communication with the state, how to take care on production, how to deal with the tax legislation – all these information was provided by the high-quality specialists.

„Everything was well-organised. I am individual entrepreneur and the training was very important for me. I have never had such knowledge. And the Lagodekhi Local Action Group supported me significantly to have progress in my activities. In addition to studying the relations between the state and entrepreneur, I started looking at the relationship with the plant in a complete different way. Within the training, I learned a lot about the use of different compounds, symptoms of disease or other details. They did their best to get my business start. Now everything depends on me and the ability to use the knowledge properly”, notes Tengiz.  

Despite the fact that the greenhouse started cucumber production in the second half of 2017 and Tengiz only managed to get the autumn harvest, the income of the Beridze family still increased. In four months period of time the entrepreneur earned more money than the state would pay him all year round as a socially vulnerable person. Today Tengiz is an independent entrepreneur from the state!

First the process of seed development begins in the 15-meter mini greenhouse. At the same time the entrepreneur ploughs a large greenhouse (800 sq.m.). When the seedling is moved from mini greenhouse to the large one, it is necessary to add heat and install the polyethylene sheeting for the greenhouse territory. Harvest begins in the second half of April and continues until the end of July. In August, cucumber is planted again. This is how the greenhouse works during two seasons – summer and autumn.

The Beridze family uses organic compounds instead of poison-chemicals. This is the technology that passes down from generation to generation. Tengiz learnt about this technology in Heretiskari, because due to the natural conditions of Zemo Adjara, he has never thought about having greenhouse production before.

The main advantage of the Beridze’s greenhouse and the main reason of its profitability is the fact that the cucumber harvest in the greenhouse comes when there is a lack of a similar product on the market. Tengiz gets harvest twice a year – in early summer or late autumn. During this time the cucumber price is higher, therefore, the family’s income is also higher. Tengiz and his wife work every day. Children also join to work when they have free time. If the family cannot handle certain work due to the lack of time, they hire 3-4 people for two or three months.

„Children help me in everyday activities, they learn and get used to work. More money – more needs. Now I am trying to fulfil wishes of my children” says Tengiz.

Tengiz’s initiative has had a significant impact on the activation of the local population. As of today many of his relatives or villagers are trying to develop production activities, to involve in the EU projects.

The Beridzes are constantly using modern technologies, trying to further improve their production. So far the family produces only cucumber, but they also think about gradual replacement of the product. The new products might be tomato, egg-pant, or others. In any case the greenhouse is designed for vegetable gardening.

„I will plant other vegetables as well, for sure and will try to expand my business. I will create a specific plan. I will try to build another greenhouse for tomato production. I am going to reinvest my profits back into the business to build a new greenhouse and expand operations”, says Tengiz.

The initial harvest of cucumber greenhouse is enough to supply the local market. When productivity increases, the Beridze family sells cucumbers in Tbilisi as well. Almost everybody knows about the cucumber greenhouse in the Lagodekhi region and often buy the product by order.

„I have not thought about exporting products abroad yet, but when my business becomes strong, I will certainly think about it”, says Tengiz.

This greenhouse has not work all year long yet, so the exact amount of harvest is unknown. By the end of 2018 it will be possible to talk about the profit of individual entrepreneur. However, the revenues of only one season already indicates the progress and development of Tengizi’s business.   

„If not ENPARD? I would still be a socially vulnerable and would think about how to improve my life. I would be in search of better life, but not able to change living conditions myself. Now I have many chances! – says Tengiz.

Author: Thea Ghvinadze