Zrda’s approach to agriculture seeks to support rural households to increase their productivity and incomes from agricultural activities in three priority sectors: vegetables, fruits (berries and orchard fruits), and bee products. Activities focusing on human capital capacity development, promoting access to new and improved production technologies, on-farm training and technical assistance, facilitating market linkages, and improving access to finance help farmers increase yields, improve efficiency, and raise incomes. Zrda furthermore supports capacity building of public and private sector agriculture extension providers and vocational training for market-demanded trade skills that will help rural households diversify their income opportunities and help them become more marketable for employment. Finally, Zrda is working together with farmer organizations, individual and cooperative producers, and wholesale and retail buyers to help improve standards and promote relevant certifications to improve the competitiveness of regional agricultural products on both domestic and international markets.
Zrda Priority Interventions: Zrda supports the development of several value chains including Fruit - berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries) and fruit trees (apples, pears, plums, and cherries); Vegetable (broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and lettuce); and Bee Products by introducing modern production techniques. To-date, Zrda helped to establish 128 open-field and 105 greenhouse demonstration plots, as well as 8 beekeeping cooperatives, 29 beekeeping farms, 41 cold storages, 4 fruit and vegetable drying facilities that yield, store and process fruits and vegetables, fruit saplings, vegetable seedlings, berry plants, and honey across Shida Kartli, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Samegrelo, Kvemo Kartli, and Kakheti (Akhmeta municipality) regions of Georgia.
High Value Fruits, Vegetables, and Berries: Zrda’s primary focus under its agriculture sector work is to promote increased production of high-quality fruits, vegetables, and berries, and assist farmers and other actors in the value chain to access higher value markets. Fruits, vegetables, and berries are appropriate crops for small land plots common to our target communities, and small investments in new technologies can pay enormous gains in terms of household and business incomes. Coupled with this approach is a focus on establishing new standards for the Georgian local market for fruits and vegetables, a so-called “Georgia good agricultural practices (GAP)” certification system that serves as a clear market signal for quality production while balancing compliance requirements with the resource constraints faced by Georgian farmers.
Bee Products: Zrda’s another focus under its agriculture sector work is to promote increased production and quality of diverse bee products for both domestic and export markets. In addition to honey production, Zrda also focuses on bee queen breeding and propagation for domestic and export markets, and royal jelly production. Our work in this value chain is primarily implemented via support to improve management and marketing capacities, alongside the technical competencies of beekeeping cooperatives.
To-date. Zrda helped to establish 105 greenhouse demonstration plots to produce seedlings and, vegetables, herbs and flowers in Shida Kartli, Kvemo Kartli, Samegrelo, and Kakheti (Akhmeta municipality).
Zrda launched six commercial Berry Nursery Production/Plant Management and Demonstration Plots across four of its target regions having supplied them with 17,500 high-quality berry plants from certified U.S. suppliers. As an example, in Rukhi village located near the Administrative Boundary Line with the Russian-occupied territory of Abkhazia, Zrda helped Agro Agora Ltd. launch the first commercial Blueberry Nursery in Samegrelo region. To strengthen the initiative, Zrda is also providing ongoing technical assistance support from Georgian and international experts on agronomy and nursery business models. Overall, the Rukhi Blueberry Nursery will be able to produce up to 100,000 new plants for sale annually once operating at full capacity. The activity is a response to local market demand for fresh berries and processed berry products that continue to outpace production.
Cold Storage Facilities:
Zrda supports farmers in its target communities to establish cold storage facilities thus enabling them to store fruits and vegetables for a longer period of time and sell the crops when market prices are high. Of note, Zrda subsidizes 100 -130 GEL per cubic meter of installed cold storage. Overall, Zrda plans to facilitate the arrangement of 45 cold storages with storing capacity of up to 1,500 tons of fruit and vegetables.
This value-added activity allows the Zrda beneficiaries to diversify their production and sell the produce at a higher price off-season. Overall, Zrda will facilitate the establishment of 7 drying facilities in the Zrda target communities with the capacity to produce around 700 kg of dried fruits daily.
Strengthening & Capacity Building of Information and Consultation Centers:
USAID Zrda is improving the capacity of 17 Information and Consultation Centers (ICCs) - Zugdidi, Tsalenjikha, Bolnisi, Marneuli, Akhmeta, Tsalka, Dusheti, Kareli, Gori, Khashuri, Kaspi, Akhaltsikhe, Ninotsminda, Aspindza, Akhalkalaki, Borjomi and Adigeni - through equipping them with field laboratory toolkits. These mobile lab kits enable ICC specialists to assist farmers with hands-on and practical services aimed at identifying problems related to crop nutrition, pests, soil and water salinity, and PH thus helping farmers improve production quality and generate increased income from the sale of their products and services. Through Zrda-supported trainings and manuals for ICC specialists, the ICC experts are providing soil and foliar test to the farmers operating in Zrda targeted regions. To strengthen the initiative, Zrda attracts MASHAV and USAID/Farmer to Farmer (F2F) experts to promote the best international practices and use of modern technologies aimed at boosting yields and improving production quality.
Private Sector Extension Support to Farm Service Center (FSCs):
Eight private Farm Service Centers (FSCs) equipped with field laboratory testing tools and knowledge on new technologies of crop production developed and provided fee-based consultation packages and field-based laboratory services to farmers across its target regions. Zrda is recruiting students from agricultural vocational centers to work with FSC extensionists, participate in consultation visits at the farmers’ fields and get hands-on experience.
Mobile Application Agronavti
Zrda and Georgian Farmers’ Association, in partnership with the Georgian Farmers' Distribution Company (GFDC) and the Adjara Hospitality Group, established a mobile match-making platform "Agronavti”. This mobile application charges commission to up to 5,500 of its users on all sales transactions to cover the platform's operations and maintenance costs and ensure its sustainability. GFDC currently collects and distributes a wide variety of Georgian agricultural products to Adjara Hospitality Group hotels and restaurants, including a significant amount of goods produced in the Zrda-target communities. To-date, the value of total sales generated by the company and its farmers living in the Zrda-target areas reached $4.4 million. In addition, the application provides statistics on agriculture; agricultural digest; post-harvest handling; regional profiles; weather forecast; certification; agricultural insurance and offers/opportunities.
With support from USAID Zrda and Credo Bank, Association Rural Development for Future Georgia launched www.kalo.ge - Enhanced Agriculture Platform to provide agro consultations and agro calendar, online shop and service delivery channel for agriculture products, pesticides and equipment, with an opportunity to distantly fulfill acquisition with Credo Bank’s Online Credit Purchase functionality.
As Georgia moves towards increased Euro-Atlantic integration, opportunities for local farmers and agribusiness will grow. However, upgrading production practices in accordance with international standards such as those mandated by the Deep and Comprehensive Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the EU remains a challenge for most Georgian farmers. Attaining international farming standards requires costly investments and the acquisition of new knowledge and skills. Recognizing these obstacles faced by the farmers, the Georgian Farmers’ Association (GFA) and the USAID Zrda Activity in Georgia have worked together since 2016 to deliver assistance to agriculture sector actors across the country to improve the quality and competitiveness of Georgian agricultural products. A key component of this joint initiative has focused on assistance to GFA to develop the Georgia Good Agricultural Practices Certification System (GeoGAP). The certification system will help Georgian farmers improve the quality of their products and move towards harmonization with European norms, while increasing local brands’ recognition in the domestic market. The certification system is especially useful in the hospitality sector, as it ensures that local produce meets a standard of quality and food safety. Farmers that achieve GeoGAP standards will be well positioned to supply produce to prominent hotels and restaurants operating in Georgia. Having recently recognized the GeoGap standard, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia is now actively promoting the certification system among high value domestic market buyers, such as the Adjara Hotel Group. Currently GFA, the Adjara Group, and the Georgian Farmers Distribution Company are working to promote this certification across Georgia, with an initial focus on the Zrda target regions and communities. As an added benefit, the GeoGAP system will not be proprietary to any particular private firm. Rather, it is designed as a broad-based certification program that is accessible to all actors in the fruits and vegetables sector willing and interested in upgrading their production to attain this certification.
Partnership with “Georgian Agro House” to help Zrda beneficiary farmers participate in Georgian Agro House’s supply chain and facilitate the development of high quality production markets for fruits and vegetables in 17 Zrda target municipalities. Crops: tomato, cucumber, eggplant, bell pepper, pepper and carrot.
Through partnership with Georgian Farmers' Distribution Company (GFDC) and the Adjara Hospitality Group, Zrda and GFA established a mobile match-making platform "Agronavti” to fulfill local produce orders for the Adjara Hospitality Group’s hotels and restaurants. To-date, the company and its farmers living in Zrda-target areas generated $4.4 million in total sales.
Improved Post Harvest Management
The Georgian Logistics Association (GLA), with support from Zrda, aims to ensure the sustainability and development impact of its Post-Harvest Handling Management (PHHM) certificate training course, and to this end, assisted interested educational institutions, such as Samtskhe-Javakheti State University (Akhaltsikhe), Euro Regional Teaching University (Gori), and Georgian Technical University (Tbilisi), to modify their syllabi for Agronomy Faculties and include the modules from PHHM into their curricula.