“We work together with the Government of Ajara, partners, and local civil society organizations to create new economic opportunities, increase employment, and promote economic diversification in rural areas.” – Ketevan Khutsishvili
Modern digitalism, strengthened by the COVID restrictions, pushed many events to take on remote platforms. The “Invest in Mountainous Ajara” business forum was one of the few such events that succeeded in having active participants despite it being online. Many interested parties across the country joined the event through ZOOM and Facebook LIVE to be a part of Keda and Khulo LAGs’ Upper Adjara Business Forum “Invest in Mountainous Ajara” on February 3-4, implemented with the support of the European Union. The event was organized in the framework of the EU-funded ENPARD projects “Keda LEADER” and “ENPARD Khulo” by the implementing organizations CENN and Caritas Czech Republic, in partnership with the Tbilisi Startup Bureau.
The event was opened by the Minister of Agriculture of Ajara, Giorgi Surmanidze, Program Manager for Rural Development, Civil Protection and Crisis Management at the EU Delegation to Georgia, Ketevan Khutsishvili; CENN Executive Director, Nana Janashia, and Head of Mission of Caritas Czech Republic in Georgia, Jan Blinka.
“Ajara is one of the target regions of the EU’s rural development program,” said Ketevan Khutsishvili. “We work together with the Government of Ajara, partners, and local civil society organizations to create new economic opportunities, increase employment, and promote economic diversification in rural areas. More importantly, the aim is to make these new opportunities sustainable so they will continue to function beyond the EU funded programs.”
“The Keda LEADER project has been successful in promoting inclusive rural growth and improving the well-being of rural communities via the implementation of innovative approaches, which generated diverse employment opportunities. The aim of the business forum is to to stimulate investments and business partnerships, which will contribute to strengthening local economic activities,” said Nana Janashia, CENN Executive Director.
The Business Forum aimed to help local entrepreneurs expand business networks, support economic diversification and stimulate investments and innovations in Mountainous Adjara. The event focused on two main themes, Agriculture and Tourism, and entailed panel discussions and business-to-business (B2B) meetings.
The economic potential, opportunities, and challenges were also discussed during the event, which was attended by local entrepreneurs, leading businesses in both sectors, international organizations and representatives of the government. A facilitated networking also took place within the forum, where companies and the audience members had an opportunity to register for the evening networking session and to present their work to the ENPARD beneficiaries. Several companies registered, among them TBC and Georgian Travel Guide, and presented new opportunities to the beneficiaries.
During the forum, the participants had an opportunity to meet innovative and successful businesses in the tourism and agriculture sectors in Upper Ajara.
The theme of the panels focused on innovations and the future trends within which entrepreneurs showcased individual projects:
The Future of Food, Wine & Accommodation
Korpa Ltd. constructed an innovative, energy efficient, and multifunctional greenhouse in the town of Keda, producing microgreens, high value wheatgrass oil, organic chickens/eggs, plant oils, and potted plants, which are then sold to restaurants, hotels, and fitness and yoga centers, mainly in the Ajara region and in Tbilisi.
Other Keda and Khulo LAGs beneficiaries also joined the event, giving presentations about their business achievements and seeking further networking opportunities. Among them was Chateau Iveri, Varjanisi Village, headed by Merab Beridze.
With the support of the Keda LEADER project, the Beridze family turned their business into a high-class ethno-style hotel with a winery. The vine planted on the slopes of Varjanisi has been cared for by the Beridze family for more than a century, and the cellar preserves the ancient tradition of wine aging. They offer various touristic services: accommodation, meals, experiencing local cuisine, folk art and crafts, and wine tasting. The Beridze family have been actively involved in the family business and hosting domestic and international tourists for many years.
Glamping TAGO introduced a new concept of tourist services, founded by Jonas Shaik. The glamping facility is located in Tago village in Khulo municipality, near the cable car station, and includes a yurt restaurant/ bar and 6 tents with different categories. The project began in 2017 and will be completed in March 2021. According to Jonas’ concept, Glamping TAGO will host guests who want to relax and be surrounded by panoramic views, far from urban lifestyle.
The Goderdzi Alpine Garden & Vermicompost
The audience was also introduced to the Goderdzi Alpine Garden, which is situated in Goderdzi Village of the Khulo Municipality, and it is the only Alpinarium in the Caucasus region. Over the past years, the Alpine Garden has developed its infrastructure significantly, allowing for maximum comfort and the expansion of services.
Representatives from another successfully implemented project attended from Kokotauri Village. Through the support of the Keda LEADER project, a vermicompost enterprise was built, and the village started the production of vermicompost and its active use in plant care. The method helps promote the reduction of harmful chemicals, and is produced entirely with a natural, organic process that involves providing a biomass to worms which then process the mass and produce a biofertilizer full of plant nutrients.
The audience was also introduced to the new mountain biking route which runs through the Keda and Shuakhevi municipalities. The project is the first in Georgia to meet international standards, and is being implemented by the NNLE Tourism Product Development Agency of Ajara.
Due to the restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event took place online via “Invest in Mountainous Ajara” zoom platform and Keda LAG facebook.
The project, Keda Leader, is implemented with financial support from the EU by CENN, in partnership with the Center for Strategic Research and Development of Georgia (CSRDG), Institute of Democracy (IoD), and the Austrian Institute for Regional Studies and Spatial Planning (ÖIR).
Since June 2017, Caritas Czech Republic in Georgia (CCRG), with the support of the EU, in partnership with Croatian Rural Development Network (HMRR) and PMC Research Center, has been implementing the project “Rural Development and Diversification in Khulo Municipality” in Khulo municipality.
The EU is supporting agriculture and rural development in Georgia through its ENPARD Program. Implemented since 2013 with a total budget of EUR 179.5 million (2013-2022), the main goal of ENPARD is to reduce rural poverty in Georgia. More information on ENPARD is available at: www.enpard.ge