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Turkish aid to help rural poor

By Shorena Labadze
Monday, July 7
While a reliable water supply is increasingly the norm for urban Georgians, access to clean water remains a dream for some rural families.

“You can’t imagine what this means. We can’t keep even basic hygiene. The village is emptying because of the unbearable conditions caused by the water problem,” says Lola Chartolani, an 83-year-old resident of Udabno village in Kakheti province.

One organization working to tackle the water supply problems throughout the country is the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).

On June 4 the WFP welcomed a USD 100 000 donation from the Turkish Embassy in Georgia that will help it to continue providing vital assistance to some of the most vulnerable people in the country.

Elif Caliskan, the second secretary at the Turkish Embassy, visited WFP project sites in Kakheti province over the weekend to see how the donation is being spent.

Around 80 percent of WFP activities in Georgia are Work for Food projects in which one member from each rural family in a village works on construction projects in return for a daily food ration pack that feeds a four-member household.

Udabno is the focus of one such project.

Located in a remote and arid area Udabno—which, tellingly, is Georgian for ‘desert’—is largely populated by Svans fleeing from a devastating flood toward the end of the Soviet period.

Clean water is delivered to the 700 or so residents sporadically and they often resort to drastic measures to get by.

“We use any kind of water, even spoiled, with an awful smell. When we have no water, sometimes we wash with the liquid which remains after cheese-making,” said Udabno resident Naira Murjikneli, a 59-year-old housewife.

The three-month project began in April and involves building water pipeline and renovating two reservoirs. When complete, villagers will have access to clean water for six to seven hours per day and some 45 hectares of vegetable plots will have a working irrigation system.

Project coordinator Davit Vadachkoria said food aid will also help farmers in the in the pre-harvest period, providing a respite from the rocketing world market prices that have seen wheat flour prices double in recent months.

A similar three-month project is ongoing in the village of Bodbiskhevi, Sighnaghi district, repairing irrigation channels to increase the productivity of some 450 hectares of farmland.

It is hoped that this will increase the harvest by around 25 percent which could open up the possibility of selling any excess produce not used by the villagers.

Local project coordinator Tamazi Shaishmelashvili jokes that Sighnaghi district residents are so grateful for the assistance they have introduced a new toast at the supra—to Turkish people and donor organizations.