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USAID and MASHAV Cooperate to Develop Open Field Vegetable Production in Shida Kartli

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, August 28
USAID Mission Director Stephen Haykin, Ambassador of Israel to Georgia Yuval Fuchs, Director of Training at MASHAV Mattanya Cohen, and Deputy Governor of Shida Kartli Guram Macharashvili, attended the closing of the MASHAV Workshop on Modern Techniques of Open Field Vegetable Production at the New Economic Opportunities (NEO)-supported Vegetable Production Demo Plot in the Kareli municipality on August 26. The eight-day workshop was conducted by two Israeli experts from MASHAV for 30 USAID/NEO beneficiary farmers and representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture in Georgia.

Over the past two years, NEO has implemented numerous agricultural value chain development initiatives in close cooperation with MASHAV to promote rural economic development in Shida Kartli and other regions of Georgia. The Breti event marked the conclusion of another MASHAV-led initiative to support the development of open-field vegetable value chain through delivering an intensive and custom-designed course on modern techniques of open-field vegetable production.

MASHAV – Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation – was launched in 1957 with the aim of sharing with the developing world the know-how and technologies which provided the basis for Israel's own rapid development. Since its establishment, MASHAV has trained close to 270,000 course participants from 132 countries in Israel and abroad and has developed dozens of demonstration projects worldwide. In the last 20 years, close to 700 trainees from Georgia took part in MASHAV courses and consultancies in Israel and in Georgia in various fields of activities such as agriculture, healthcare, education, gender issues, small and medium enterprises and more.

In the Shida Kartli region of Georgia, NEO supported the establishment of eight vegetable production demonstration plots and three seedling nurseries in NEO communities in the Gori, Kareli and Khashuri municipalities. In February 2013 and March 2014, NEO assisted eight vegetable farmers in organizing themselves into two independent associations – Vegetable Producers Association of Shida Kartli and Vegetable Farmers Association Kartli - and awarded the association members with equipment to establish three 100 m2 tunnel greenhouses with drip irrigation systems, plastic trays and vegetable seeders. The Associations actively collaborate with distribution companies to sell their products to regional and Tbilisi fresh markets. Between August and November 2013, the associations harvested 36 metric tons of tomatoes, earning more than GEL 27, 620 in sales at local fresh markets. Further, they produced 172,000 tomato seedlings, out of which 36,530 were distributed free-of-charge to 360 vulnerable households in the Gori municipality.

According to farmer Paata Balishvili, The Vegetable Producers Association of Shida Kartli started its operation as a result of a grant from the USAID New Economic Opportunities Initiative (NEO). “The grant enabled all of our association members to access new varieties of tomato, beet and other vegetables, drip irrigation systems and training on modern production methods. Thanks to USAID and MASHAV, the association has expanded its operations and production volumes,” he said.

Stephen Haykin admitted that over the past two years, NEO has collaborated closely with MASHAV. He suggested that to date, nine NEO staff, agricultural consultants and grantees have participated in 10 to 23-day intensive professional development training programs in Israel financed by MASHAV. The training programs covered a wide range of sectors.

“I am confident that the knowledge gained from this workshop will enable the participants to increase their yields, improve the quality of the vegetables grown in their fields, and in turn, significantly enhance their incomes,” Israeli ambassador stated.