CDI4 Project Update
Ivlita, 2013

 

Ivlita village is located in Akhaltsikhe district of Samtskhe-Javakheti, just 3 km from the city of Akhaltsikhe. The village lays on the left bank of river Potskhovi at 960m altitude and accommodates 54 households (189 residents).

Ivlita, alike other villages in the region depends on agriculture for living. Its location allows acess to 300 hectares of land, of which, 240 hectares are pastures - where villagers graze 140 heads of cattle. Average arable plot in posession of one household is a hectare or less, with few exceptions, which puts majority of villagers in subsistence.
 

Communities, where land is fragmented, always face problems with mechanization in Georgia due to lack of agricultural machinery, as several villages que for access to services and most of them frequently fail to complete works in set terms. The problem was extensively argued by an young initiative group from Ivlita during the Social Enterpreneurship training in RDA’s office in autumn 2012. It didn’t take long for the the newly teamed members to come up with an idea of Social Enterprise which won in grants competition announced within BP-funded Community Development Initiative. 

Ivlita village is located in Akhaltsikhe district of Samtskhe-Javakheti, just 3 km from the city of Akhaltsikhe. The village lays on the left bank of river Potskhovi at 960m altitude and accommodates 54 households (189 residents).

“We have been thinking about community-based agri-services for long, but the village is poor and couldn’t afford machinery of its own” – says Giga Gikoshvili, member of Ivlita CBO and operator of a brand new 40 hp tractor purchased through matching grant ($12,000) of CDI just before the spring agricultural season. He says that machinery of state-operated Farm Service Centers is too powerful and uncomfortable for use in small, fragmented plots, where Ivlita Social Enterprise has the comparative advantage. The Social Enterprise affiliates 23 member households who contributed financially and in return, receive 25% discount on machinery services year-round. The  Four socially vulnerable families receive services with 75% discount despite initial financial participation in the project. 

Community Based Organization (CBO) “Ivlita 21” members in the field (from left to right): Giorgi Gikoshvili, Zaza Merabishvili, Giga Gikoshvili 


 

Marina Baghdoshvili and her parents, socially vulnerable beneficiaries of Community Development Initiative (CDI4) at their porch.  

Marina Baghdoshvili is the only work-capable member of one of such families whose 0.05 hectare potato plot was serviced by Ivlita 21 this year. “Before, I always dreamed of having my own small hand-tractor”, shares Marina, a single mother of two underage sons and the only carer of her parents who’re in their eighties. When she got to pay Ivlita 21 for plaughing this spring, she understood that she would have had to spend double on fuel costs of hand-tractor if she’d owned one. 

2013 has been the only year when Ivlita acomplished spring works in time and when 100% of the demand was satisfied. “We finalized all works in five days and in addition, serviced 6 hectares in other villages for the market price”, says Giorgi Gikoshvili, an initiator of Ivlita 21 and former CDI demo farmer who, despite his young age, pioneered vegetable demonstration in the village years go.

Regional Development Association (RDA) assisted a three-member group of farmers in spring 2012 to arrange a 0.1 ha On-Farm Demonstration of vegetables but the plot was destroyed by severe hail in July, before harvest. 

Gia Gikoshvili, one of the group members, recalls this natural disaster to have carried one of the haviest consequences for the village in years, but says he and his friends did not give up and arranged demonstration of hayfield improvement through CDI4 in autumn of the same year.

“Because cattle has sufficient area for grazing, locals ignore hayfield improvement technologies and provide plain hay, which results in critical drop of milk yield in winter”, says the demo farmer, adding that this year, owners of four neighboring plots transferred the technology introduced by the group.
 

Gia is not just a leading novator in his community, but is also a risk-taker, who continues to do what he is commited to. According to Mkrtich Movsesian, an RDA agriculture specialist who helps Gia make the best out of his demo, he spent some 500 GEL of his own money to restore the destroyed vegetable demo-plot independently, following an inspiring cross visit of CDI farmers to Gonio nursery which was organized by RDA this spring.
 

Ivlita is a small village known as one of the most tolerant communities of Samtskhe-Javakheti where catholic and orthodox perish pray in the same  medieval church during the liturgical services that are scheduled in moderation.

The Ivlita church has been the main attraction for tourists visiting the village, but not the only one anymore, because many of them also stop by an unusual for Georgian reality  farm, arranged in April 2013 by  Shota Vardidze, CDI4 Start-Up Business (SUB) grantee. 

Gia Gikoshvili at hayfield improvement demonstration plot arranged within Community Development Initiative (CDI4) 

 “I first started thinking about snail farming when I saw my neighbors earning pocket money from sale of forest-picked snails along the highway”, says an young entrepreneur who’s made a choice of staying in the village amid a recent opportunity to emigrate together with his family members. Shota Vardidze says he always had an entrepreneurial spirit, but never actually risked to start own business until winning matching grant in CDI4.

 

Shota Vardidze,  Community Development Initiative (CDI4) start-up business grantee at his snail farm

The grant funds ($1,500) were spend on fencing and sprinkler irrigation for a 10m radius farm where Shota cultivated special nutritive varieties of plants and arranged snail shelters.
 

Snail collection is now an organized activity in Ivlita. Shota offers his neighbors free transportation at down, after rainy nights. They jointly pick snails in the forest and earn extra 10 GEL per day for adding to Shota’s basket. 

“I read a lot of literature over the internet about snail farming and learnt that wild collection has to be done in certain time intervals in order to allow for reproduction. Otherwise, mass collection may harm environment and this is what I also tell my villagers”, says Shota. 


 

The sales channel for farmed snails is mostly restaurants and some of the preliminary agreements were already reached in Tbilisi. Shota will start selling in September, when there is sufficient amount and diversity of produce. Some restaurants request special, giant variety of snails that are now hatched in the farm together with wild-collected species.

 

Shota Vardidze,  Community Development Initiative (CDI4) 
 

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The Community Development Initiative (CDI) is initiated and funded by BP and its co-ventures in Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC), South Caucasian Pipeline (SCP) and Georgian Pipeline Companies

  

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