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Strengthening Community Based Farmers' Groups and Agricultural Services in Samtskhe-Javakheti

International Non-Governmental Organisation Mercy Corps is implementing European Union funded programme: Strengthening Community Based Farmers' Groups and Agricultural Services in Samtskhe-Javakheti from February, 2010 till January, 2011. Programme is being implemented in Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia: Akhaltsikhe; Adigeni; Apindza and Akhalkalaki Municipalities.
The implementation partner of Mercy Corps is a local NGO Association of Business Consulting Organizations (ABCO) Georgia.  

The overall objective of the programme is that Sustainable fee-based extension services are developed by local government, agricultural service providers and farmers' groups, enabling small scale farmers in Samtskhe-Javakheti to increase incomes and productivity in the agricultural sub-sector.  The specific objective is that Farmers' Groups, Agricultural Service Providers and Local Government have increased capacity and collaborate effectively to provide relevant business services to small scale farmers and Farmers' Groups in Samtskhe-Javakheti region.

The programme has two main components:
•    Capacity building of Farmers Groups and Agricultural Service Providers
•    Improving collaboration and coordination between Farmers Groups,  Agricultural Service Providers and local authorities

The following main activities have been undertaken in framework of the programme:
•    Initial needs assessment of Agricultural Service Providers and Farmers Groups
•    Capacity building of Farmers Groups and Agricultural service Providers in the following topics:
-    Organizational Management
-    Accounting and Taxation
-    Marketing
-    Supplier Credit Schemes
-    Finance services from Banks and Micro-Financial Institutions
-    Milk collection and primary processing
-    Food Safety and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) Compliance

•    Trainings of trainers for Agricultural Service Providers in advanced agricultural technologies:
-    Business planning
-    Vegetable/Plant growing
-    Potato growing technologies
-    Livestock breeding
-    Fish-farming
-    Bee-keeping

•    Agricultural Service Providers provided trainings to the Farmers Groups in:
-    Potato growing technologies
-    Veterinary and animal diseases
-    Bee-keeping and honey production
-    Livestock breeding and feeding
-    Modern agricultural machinery and its utilization
-    Fish-farming

•    Small sub-grants to Agricultural Service Providers and Farmers Groups based on the grant applications. In total 14 sub-grants were disbursed (with average amount of GEL 3,300) for the following activities:
-    Seed potato production and selling
-    Potatoes and vegetables storing
-    Raw milk collection and selling
-    Fish-farming and breeding of fry fish
-    Honey packaging and selling
-    Production and marketing of fruit juices and jams and
-    Agricultural machinery service
-    Organizational development
In every sub-grant project beneficiary’s in-kind, labour and cash contribution was minimum 25% of total project cost. As a result, income of the direct and indirect beneficiaries of the programme increased with 25-50%.

•    Joint workshops between Agricultural Service Providers, Farmers Groups, regional and municipal authorities to achieve their close collaboration

•    Four municipal and one regional agricultural Lobby Groups established with representation of Agricultural Service Providers, Farmers Groups, regional and municipal authorities

•    Regional agricultural Lobby Group statute was elaborated and approved, it’s goals were developed, regular quarterly meetings of Lobby Group established

•    Regional agricultural Lobby group identified five important problems for the farmers in Samtskhe-Javakheti region, developed respective documents and is lobbying for the problems resolution on the regional and central level. These problems are:
-    Irrigation in village Ude, Adigeni municipality
-    Iirrigation in village Rustavi, Aspindza municipality
-    Filling in respective veterinary forms (form #1 and #2) for selling of the livestock and difficulties, related with this rule
-    Rehabilitation of the roads to the arable lands and pastures in Samtskhe-Javakheti region
-    Slaughtering the livestock in the certified slaughterhouse and  related issues

•    In total 3,300 booklets were developed and published about important agricultural issues and new technologies. These booklets are:
-    Brucellosis
-    Impact of the livestock health on the milk content
-    Drip irrigation
-    Feeding of cow
-    Breeding of queen bees
-    Potato varieties and demand on the quality seed material
-    Livestock breed improvement
-    Marketing
-    Technology of untilled planting
-    What the livestock farmer must know
-    Credit schemes in agriculture
-    Foot and mouth disease
-    Planning of veterinary measures
-    Rearing of calves

Results of the programme:
•    From 14 sub-grant projects family income of 80 members of Farmers Groups and Agricultural Service Providers increased with 40-50%
•    With utilization of new agricultural technologies, machinery and seeds indirect benefit have been received by 750 small scale farmers and their family members
•    About 3,000 farmers and their family members received indirect benefits though the trainings, demonstrations and agricultural booklets
Sub-grant component of the programme

Sub-grant component of European Union funded and Mercy Corps implemented programme: Strengthening Community Based Farmers' Groups and Agricultural Services in Samtskhe-Javakheti included disbursement of small grants to the Farmers Groups and Agricultural Service Providers. Initially the programme staff developed the document, describing grant application process and selection of the local grantees. 

 
        

Mercy Corps developed clear criteria for the sub-grants disbursement to the Farmers Groups and Agricultural Service Providers. These criteria are the following:
•    Sub-grant recipient must operate in Samtskhe-Javakheti region and be legally registered entity
•    Sub-grant recipient must have at least one year of experience in business development and/or agricultural sector
•    Sub-grant recipient must have qualified staff and ability to implement diverse types of activities
•     Sub-grant recipient must have clearly formulated business idea
•    Sub-grant recipient must have ability to develop and implement viable business plan
•    Sub-grant recipient must has ability to develop new services and increase number of clients
•    Sub-grant recipient Farmers Group ethnic composition has to reflect real ethnic composition of the community, where the organization operates
•    At least 20% of members of the sub-grant recipient Farmers Group must be women
•    Sub-grant recipient Farmers Group must have opportunity and willingness to develop new agricultural technologies
•    In-kind and cash contribution of the sub-grant recipient must be minimum 25% of the total cost of the project (among them, at least 10% must be cash contribution)

All Farmers Groups and Agricultural Service Providers, which had willingness to obtain sub-grants, presented grant application to the programme in form of the investment or business plan. In this plan project’s profitability, viability and benefit to be received by the small scale farmers were presented. These applications were reviewed by the grant committee, which consisted Mercy Corps and ABCO representatives. In total 39 sub-grant applications were reviewed and among them 14 funded. The purpose of these grants:
•    To help Agricultural Service providers develop better and affordable services for small farmers,
•    To help Agricultural Service providers and Farmers Groups with implementation of advanced agricultural technologies, to enable them to receive higher yields and increase income
•    To help Farmers Groups access new agricultural markets
•    To strengthen the organizational capacity of Agricultural Service providers and Farmers Groups

Grants were provided in form of funds or commodities (agricultural inputs, potato seeds, machinery, equipment, etc). After the disbarment of sub-grant constant monitoring of the grantee’s activities has been undertaken. This was done to ensure purposeful utilization of the sub-grant. 

In total 14 small sub-grants were disbursed for the amount of GEL 46,039. In-kind, labour and cash contribution of the grant recipients was GEL 56,480, among this GEL 10,335 cash contribution. Minimal amount of the sub-grant was GEL 1,680, maximum amount – GEL 6,282. Sub-grant recipients and types of the projects are given in the table below:
 Organization name Organization type Municipality Purpose of  sub-grant
1 Cooperative “Khulgumo” Farmers Group Akhalkalaki Seed potato growing and selling
2 Association “Kotelia” Farmers Group Akhalkalaki Seed potato growing and selling
3 Cooperative “Five Stars” Farmers Group Akhalkalaki Seed potato growing and selling
4 Akhalkalaki Rural Service Centre Agricultural Service Provider Akhalkalaki Agricultural machinery service, Seed potato growing
5 Association “Anluchi” Farmers Group/ Agricultural Service Provider Akhaltsikhe Agricultural machinery service
6 Association “Tuberi 2008” Farmers Group/ Agricultural Service Provider Akhaltsikhe Agricultural machinery service
7 Association “Rustavi 2010” Farmers Group Aspindza Agricultural machinery service
8 Association “Khidi 2010” Farmers Group Akhaltsikhe Fish farming, breeding of fry fish
9 Cooperative “Dzveli Rdze” Farmers Group/ Agricultural Service Provider Aspindza Row Milk collection and selling
10 Fruit processors association  Farmers Group/ Agricultural Service Provider Adigeni Marketing of fruit juices and jams 
11 Bee-Keepers house Farmers Group/ Agricultural Service Provider Akhaltsikhe Honey packaging and selling
12 Akhaltsikhe Rural Service Centre Agricultural Service Provider Akhaltsikhe Potato storing and marketing
13 Assiciation “Ude Technics” Farmers Group/ Agricultural Service Provider Adigeni Agricultural machinery service
14 Association “Agro-info 2008” Service Provider Akhalkalaki Organization development and farmers training service

with 20-45%.
Trainings in framework of the programme
One of the main objectives of the programme: Strengthening Community Based Farmers' Groups and Agricultural Services in Samtskhe-Javakheti is capacity building of Farmers and Agricultural Service Providers, information exchange about advanced agricultural technologies and getting them to know with successful examples and new information in agriculture. These were done, together with other activities, through the trainings and demonstrations.

If framework of the programme, Mercy Corps implementing partner, Association of Business Consulting Organizations (ABCO) Georgia conducted and facilitated trainings with participation of experienced and high-qualified specialists. These trainings covered business planning as well as different sectors of agriculture.

Initially, the trainings for the Farmers Groups members and Agricultural Service Providers were conducted by ABCO.
Trainings

Training topic Municipality Number of participants
 Men Women Total
Business planning (organizational management, accounting/taxation, marketing) Adigeni 11 5 16
Aspindza 16 2 18
Akhalkalaki 12 3 15
Akhaltsikhe 11 4 15
Supplier Credit Schemes; Finance services from Banks and Micro-Financial Institutions Adigeni 10 1 11
Aspindza 12 3 15
Akhalkalaki 15 5 20
Akhaltsikhe 12 4 16
Milk collection and primary processing  Adigeni 12 5 17
Aspindza 12 3 15
Akhalkalaki 12 6 18
Akhaltsikhe 14 2 16
Food Safety and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) Compliance Adigeni 4 6 10
Aspindza 9 3 12
Akhalkalaki 11 0 11
Akhaltsikhe 10 3 13
Total 183 55 238
 
Also Trainings of Trainers were conducted for Agricultural Service Providers.
Training of Trainers
Training topic Number of participants
Men Women Total
Livestock breeding 10 5 15
Plant growing 13 7 17
Fish farming  8 2 10
Potato growing technologies     18
Bee-keeping     
Business planning     
Total      

Mercy Corps and ABCO also facilitated Agricultural Service Providers in the region to conduct the trainings for the Farmers Groups in the various modern agricultural technologies. 
Trainings provided by the Service Providers
Training topic Municipality Number of participants
 Men Women Total
Potato growing technologies Akhalkalaki 14 3 17
Akhalkalaki 12 1 13
Veterinary and animal diseases   Akhalkalaki 12 0 12
Akhalkalaki 11 0 11
Akhalkalaki 12 0 12
Aspindza 12 4 16
Bee-keeping and honey production Akhaltsikhe 6 2 8
Akhalkalaki 14 0 14
Akhalkalaki 13 0 13
Aspindza 13 4 17
Akhalkalaki 18 0 18
Livestock breeding and animal feeding Akhaltsikhe 10 6 18
Akhalkalaki 18 1 19
Agricultural machinery and its efficient utilization Adigeni 9 2 11
Total 174 23 196

Also, what is very important, in framework of the programme, different Farmers Groups from Akhalkalaki municipality conducted demonstration of implemented and utilized agricultural technologies. In these demonstrations Farmers Groups and Agricultural Service Providers from all target municipalities as well as local authorities’ representatives participated. As a result of the demonstration days, experience was shared between the different farmers, as profitability and efficiency of the utilized modern agricultural technologies was obvious. Many farmers attended the demonstrations, decided to use these technologies in their farms.

In total, nine demonstration days were conducted in Akhalkalaki municipality, where 387 farmers participated.

Demonstration Municipality Village Date Participants
   Men Women Total
Potato growing technologies Akhalkalaki Kumurdo 26.07.10 31 7 38
Akhalkalaki Khulgumo 27.07.10 39 9 48
Akhalkalaki Kotelia 28.07.10 25 11 36
Potato growing technologies Akhalkalaki Kumurdo 25.08.10 33 6 39
Akhalkalaki Khulgumo 26.08.10 35 7 42
Akhalkalaki Kotelia 27.08.10 25 11 36
Potato growing technologies Akhalkalaki Kumurdo 29.09.10 51 12 63
Akhalkalaki Khulgumo 24.10.10 38 8 46
Akhalkalaki Kotelia 25.10.10 29 10 39
Total 306 81 387

Potato growing technologies were demonstrated during the different phases of potato cultivation in three villages of Akhalkalaki municipality.


Agricultural Lobby Groups

One of the main components of the programme: Strengthening Community Based Farmers' Groups and Agricultural Services in Samstkhe-Javakheti, is formation of agricultural Lobby Groups on the municipal and regional level. The main aim of the Lobby Groups is information exchange and improvement of collaboration between the Agricultural Service Providers, Farmers Groups and local authorities.

On the initial phase of the programme implementation, joint workshops were conducted with participation of Agricultural Service Providers, Farmers Groups and representatives of municipal and regional authorities aiming establishment of close collaboration between these stakeholders.

In total eight meetings were conducted, with attendance of representatives of the Farmers Groups, Agricultural Service Providers, municipal and regional governments. In total  132 people presented. 

 


On these meetings municipal Lobby Groups members were selected in Adigeni, Aspindza, Akhaltsikhe and Akhalkalaki districts. Each of these group consisted six members (among them five members of Farmers Groups and Agricultural Service Providers as well as one representative of municipal government). In total eight meetings of municipal Lobby Groups and five meetings of regional Lobby Group took place. 

Members of the Lobby Groups

Municipal Lobby Groups: 
•    Akhaltsikhe – 6 persons (all men)
•    Adigeni – 6 persons (2 women, 4 men)
•    Aspindza - 6 persons (2 women, 4 men)
•    Akhalkalaki - 6 persons (1 women, 5 men)

Regional Lobby Group:
Members – 24 persons (5 women, 19 men)
Members of the management board – 5 persons (representatives of all four target municipalities Lobby Groups and the regional government).

Activities conducted by Lobby Groups:

•    On the initial phase eight extended meetings were conducted and members of municipal Lobby Groups selected
•    Eight meetings of municipal Lobby Groups took place
•    Five meetings of regional Lobby Group took place. In these meetings regional representatives of Food safety and veterinary department participated
•    Regional Lobby Group statute was developed and approved
•    Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the regional representation of Ministry of Agriculture to aim further close collaboration
•    Agricultural problems, important for the farmers in the region, were identified and discussed
•    Five respective documents with the recommendations how to address these essential agricultural problems, were developed and presented to the authorities. These problems are:
-    Problem of irrigation in village Ude, Adigeni municipality
-    Problem of irrigation in village Rustavi, Aspindza municipality
-    Filling in respective veterinary forms (form #1 and #2) for selling of the livestock and difficulties, related with this rule
-    Rehabilitation of the roads to the arable lands and pastures in Samtkhe-Javakheti region
-    Slaughtering the livestock in the slaughterhouse and  related issues
•    The donor was found for the rehabilitation of irrigation system in village Ude, Adigeni municipality