Green Gold for Georgia’s Rural Economy 🥗Published: Jan 28, 2022 Reading time: 2 minutes
Fennel, parsley, and coriander are the traditional crops that Shalva Kepuladze, a farmer in the Georgian village of Opshkviti, typically grows during an average season. But fierce competition at market has led to a substantial drop in the prices of these products, leaving Shalva with a decision: muddle along and try to make ends meet, or plant something new?
He opted for the latter. Online he read that arugula, a variety of lettuce, could be introduced easily, cheaply, and had the potential to return high yields. Today, his arugula crop is so successful that he even teaches his neighbours how to grow the leafy green. “My arugula is being supplied to high-end hotels and restaurants in Tbilisi,” he says proudly.
Shalva’s business received a recent boost thanks to Local Action Group (LAG) Tskaltubo, which was established by People in Need (PIN) and funded by the European Union and the Czech Development Agency. “I took part in a grant competition through the PIN project; I obtained funding, which I used to renovate my greenhouse,” Shalva says.
Shalva’s success is evident at local markets, where demand for arugula has skyrocketed. “One kilo of arugula sold for 8 GEL in summer (about USD $2.60). In October-November, the price reached 15 GEL and in January, as exports to Russia and Baltic states began, the price soared to 28-30 GEL,” the farmer adds.
Today, Shalva employs more than 10 neighbours – all coming from socially disadvantaged families – to manage his increasingly popular crop. “I intend to further participate in such projects and to expand my farm, which in turn will increase my income and enable me to employ more people,” he says.
The project “Local Action Group Tskaltubo” is supported by the European Union under its ENPARD programme, and the Czech Development Agency. By introducing the European LEADER approach in Georgia’s Tskaltubo municipality, the project contributes to poverty reduction and promotes participatory mechanisms in local decision-making processes. The business and social initiatives supported by small grants will also become models for others to follow, and the project’s goal is to bring innovations to remote areas that will improve quality of life.