Ana Gamgebeli runs a goat farm in the village of Menji, Samegrelo. Her family was originally from Ukraine, but Ana was raised in Tbilisi. She spent her childhood in the central Vake district and studied biology, among other things. As a child, she was already fascinated by nature and as she says her family had plenty of animals in the private yard of their house. And then, she decided to make her dreams come true and she became a farmer, an innovative farmer trying to use her strong technical educational background to make the most out of the precious Georgian diversity combined with best international technologies and practices.
In the farm, where Ana lives with her family, everything speaks about love. Love for her two beautiful girls, love for her dog, her goats, love for her work and the hard task of playing a leadership role in her farm, where she has other partners, and in the new milk processing factory inside the farm which is being completed with up-to-date buildings and equipment.
When your love, you care, and Ana cares very much about her goats. While the traditional Mingrelian goats, mainly used for meat production, are quite hardy, their production levels of milk are also quite low. So, Ana is now using cross-breeding with mainly Alpine goats whose yields are usually much higher but whose management is much more complex. Goats are by far the most sensitive ruminants and every mistake can be paid dearly.
Because of the absence of modern intensive goat specialists in Georgia, Ana is used to mainly rely on information provided through internet. She is fluent in English and Russian and has access to a large pool of technical data on line. She therefore can find day-to-day solutions for the numerous veterinary problems her goats are faced with. She is also preparing her feed rations by herself. For the time being, her results are good with low mortality of goats, but she knows that she needs much more on-site and practical knowledge for her future plans and those of her partners to build a large-scale farm for highly productive imported Alpine goats.
The strength of Ana is also to be able to have a comprehensive approach of her value-chain, from her fork to that of the final consumer. She is quite good at direct marketing of her products (mainly goat’s pasteurized milk and cheese), a common feature with all farm-entrepreneurs, and she will be able to make the most out of the modern dairy processing equipment from the Netherlands currently being installed in her brand-new processing factory.
As the plant will have a daily capacity much bigger than what will be produced by the goat farm, Ana is building strong ties with neighbor farmers, including many women, to purchase from them milk from cows and buffaloes which find good breeding conditions in that region. As she will need high quality milk, with good hygiene and high fat and protein content for which suppliers will get good prices and daily payments, she will have to play a catalyst role to transform the breeding practices in her environment.
The EU-funded FinExCoop project has recently begun to work with Ana. She was visited in August by international cheese specialist, she also received on-line trainings and training materials for goats, and the project is currently working with her on the improvement of her fodder base through the introduction of plants which are resistant to acidity. After having made analysis of soil samples from her farm, the project has identified potential crops which could be successfully cultivated in her area such as lupins, a legume rich in proteins well adapted to acidity, or a new type of sorghum. The FinExCoop will propose to its next Committee of Pilots headed by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Rural Development agency (RDA) to include Ana as one of its pilots. She has proven so much and there is so much still to do with her and her community.