Ecomigrant Women in Disveli Start Cheese Production

10.01.2017

Every morning has started differently for three women in Disveli village, Bolnisi Municipality, since April 2016. At 9 am sharp they start their daily job at a small cheese enterprise located in the village to produce Sulguni, butter, and a ricotta-like dairy product from local cattle milk. The morning starts by getting fresh milk from various farms, which is later put into a pasteuriser. After cooling down, it undergoes a ripening process, which takes at least 30-40 minutes. When the cheese is ready, it is simultaneously boiled and stretched and later kneaded into a round-shaped Sulguni.   Disveli is a village of ecomigrants from Adjara who were resettled due to a landslide that destroyed their homes in Khulo Municipality. Building the cheese cooperative in Disveli is the result of a partnership between CENN and Rural Economic Development Program (RED) for the Southern Regions of Georgia – a joint Danish-Swiss project that aims to contribute to the economic growth of the agriculture sector and reduction of poverty in Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli regions. CENN’s involvement in the establishment of the women cooperative and enterprise was possible in the framework of the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) funded the project, Empowered Rural Women for Sustainable Agriculture in the South Caucasus, which is implemented in a partnership with Hilfswerk Austria International and Green Lane Agricultural Assistance NGO in Armenia.   The project aims to reduce poverty in the transboundary region of Armenia and Georgia via contributing to the empowerment of women and to increase their awareness of the importance of sustainable agriculture in the South Caucasus. Consequently, one of the cooperative’s principles was gender equality, meaning that at least half of its members should be female. This empowers rural women, ensures their income, and generally improves the living conditions of the vulnerable rural population. In addition, the cooperative also assumes social responsibility for its community and invests part of the cooperative’s income into a community fund that targets its development projects.   Meri Makharadze, the Chairwomen of the cooperative, explains that the existence of such cooperatives and enterprises in the village is necessary as the village will have some novelty and innovation. ‘A person can learn a lot of things as the project brought so many international experts, who taught us the production of various cheese types with different technologies’ she continued.   Another woman involved in the cooperative and cheese production is Zaira Shainidze, who has much more experience in cheese production than others. She has worked for at least 5 years in different companies and factories. Zaira notes that she has never worked in any enterprise with such technologically advanced equipment.   ‘Working is much easier, than with the traditional Adjaran method, which involves bigger bowls and bare hands’ she continues adding that being in the enterprise is beneficial for her as she has her own income and can help her family.   Currently, the cheese produced in Disveli is sold in Tbilisi in low quantities, while the butter and ricotta, while being in high demand, are only sold on the Disveli village market. Members of the cooperative hope to become more efficient, and extend production and most importantly the labour force quite soon. The problem they currently face is that they do not have a vehicle to bring milk from cattle that taken to the mountains to pasture during the summer. In addition, the cooperative is working on recommendations received from the National Food Agency in order to introduce a HACCP plan in the factory and to start mass production.   According to Makharadze, the enterprise is able to get 2.5 tonnes of milk every day and fully utilise it. She explains that 100 litres of milk give around 12–13 kg of cheese, while on average they get at least 300–400 litres each day. Shainidze elaborates that once they begin mass distribution, the enterprise will be able to an employee at least 10 people for cheese production, but this is not the only work at the factory, as there is also the daily cleaning of premises and equipment.   To raise awareness of the enterprise, cooperative members participated in various national and international agricultural and cheese festivals such as the Georgian Cheese Festival in 2014, the Festival of Rural Life in Yerevan in 2014 and 2015, and the South Caucasus Cheese Festival in Tbilisi in 2015. Last year in Yerevan, the Disveli cooperative was even awarded the Best Enterprise Award.

Green summer at Eco-Camps

10.01.2017

CENN’s Green Center in Bulachauri has been hosting eco-camps every summer since 2010. The camps were divided into 5 groups and were conducted from June 27 to September 5, 2016, and hosted high school students from public and private schools throughout Georgia.   This year, the syllabus of the camps included various environmental topics including forest ecosystems and their sustainable management, appreciating the difference among various plants, biodiversity conservation, integrated waste management and steps taken by Georgia in that area, the impact of mining on natural and socio-economic environment of Georgia, urbanization and trends in urban development, natural risk reduction and management possibilities, climate change and the consequences related to its risks, climate-smart agriculture and pasture management.   In addition to topic-based, environmental lectures, the participants were given an opportunity to learn the specifics of working on a journalist text, working on a literary text, main trends of use of social media and the specifics of landscape photo shooting. The youth will use the received skills to continue actively using GreenWatch application and sharing their green activities with their peers using social media. Giorgi Avazashvili, a participant of one of the groups even created a video blog about the new friends he made,  fun hiking tours and interesting seminars that he experienced.   Hiking tours made the final part of the camps. This summer, various groups took different trails to study local endemics and conducted environmental monitoring under leaders’ supervision. The participants passed Tsilkani, Mukhrani, Tezi, Mleta and Lomisa, Truso Valley, Kazbegi and Kintrishi protected areas as well as Shatili and Mutso. Prior to taking off, the participants had a preparatory seminar where they learned from professional instructors about the rules of conduct and the purpose and use of hiking equipment.   In parallel with eco-camps, a competition for Niko Ketskhoveli school award is in progress where youths from various schools of Georgia will compete with one another and the above award will be granted to the winner. Camp participants were given detailed instructions about the rules of the competition so that they can spread information in their respective schools and take part in the competition.   The main goal of eco-camps is to prepare future generations for tackling environmental challenges. Here in CENN, we believe that a change is only possible when one is ready for it. All of us, no matter the age, gender, social status or beliefs need to make our contribution. Organising a camp is a great challenge and responsibility for our team, though the results continue to exceed our expectations from year to year.   CENN eco-camps will continue and offer opportunities to participate in any school student involved in the competitions and activities organised by our organisation throughout the year.   In 2016, conducting camps at CENN’s Green Center in Bulachauri was possible within the project “Sustainable Forest Governance in Georgia” supported by Austrian Development Cooperation and the Government of Abkhazia.

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