Since 2018, the USAID Zrda Activity in Georgia (USAID Zrda) and bp Georgia have been implementing the joint community development program in 41 villages where bp and USAID Zrda activities overlap. The joint program is being implemented as part of the broader Community Development Program, initiated and funded by bp and its oil and gas partners. Focus areas of the partnership include agriculture, business and community development. Within the joint program, USAID Zrda and bp support sustainable social and economic development projects that respond to the needs of the local population and have the potential to positively impact the target communities by creating jobs and income-generation opportunities.
USAID Zrda and bp Georgia Strengthen Communities in Georgia
By Natalia Kochiashvili
Monday, June 1
USAID Zrda co-finances community development initiatives in 41 villages through technical assistance, training and small grants activities, contributing up to $300,000 to the joint program. bp, on behalf of its oil and gas partners, is investing $2 million in the broader Community Development program, the current phase of which is being implemented during 2018-2021 in 218 villages, including in 41 villages with more than 14,000 local residents, under the joint program with USAID Zrda.
USAID Zrda and bp Georgia are implementing the joint program through their partners in the regions: Biological Farming Association Elkana and Regional Development Association (RDA).
Biological Farming Association Elkana is implementing small business development projects in 22 villages (including 2 IDP settlements) located in the Kaspi, Gori, Kareli and Khashuri municipalities of Shida Kartli region along the Western Route Export Pipeline better known as Baku-Supsa pipeline. Activities include supporting sustainable income generation activities through enterprise development and agricultural knowledge dissemination in the communities.
The program is designed to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas into businesses. As an example, Lali Jinikashvili from the village Tsitelubani of the Gori municipality has bought 2 egg incubators and now her business is spreading to neighboring villages. According to Lali, she always has customers that call in to join a queue for arranging eggs.
As Elkana has informed The Messenger, in Shida Kartli Region the program assisted 49 small business projects while 43 more are currently selected for further support, some of them work in agriculture operating small greenhouses, others have small sewing ateliers, or produce dry fruit and run iron workshops. In most cases, the entrepreneurs were supported through grants and training to help them kick off their small businesses.
Shalva Chinchaladze has also developed an iron workshop in the village Kvemo Brolosani, Khashuri municipality. “This assistance gave me an opportunity to partner up with several bid winner companies, and most importantly, I managed to create a workplace for locals”- he told us, adding that his workshop provides a variety of services like building and renewing iron doors, windows, ovens, footbridges, agricultural tools and others.
Another successful project is presented in the village of Kvemo Shakshaketi, Kareli Municipality – Grigol Gikashvili’s greenhouse supported in 2018. Grigol is producing vegetables and greens to sell his produce not only locally, but at nearby fresh markets. Grigol Gikashvili emphasized the importance of hands-on training and recommendations that enabled him to start production of ecologically clean agricultural products.
In addition to the direct results of the joint USAID Zrda and bp Georgia program, the project has very powerful impact with regard to the informal education of locals: “They learn how to submit tax declarations or make bank transactions, how to issue an invoice or adhere to work safety requirements; and in the long-term, we are happy to see that these beneficiaries become a model for replication,” Elkana stated.
Another partner under the joint USAID Zrda and bp Georgia program, the Regional Development Association (RDA), is implementing community development initiatives in the 19 villages located in Akhaltsikhe, Adigeni and Tsalka municipalities of Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli regions along the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and South Caucasus Pipelines.
Main activities include investments in rural infrastructure projects to improve economic and living conditions, capacity building of community-based organizations and supporting sustainable income generation activities through enterprise development and agricultural activities.
As RDA has informed The Messenger, “Within USAID Zrda and bp joint program, RDA supported the implementation of 8 infrastructure projects that benefited 1,065 local households, while 8 more are currently selected for further support in Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli regions.
Roman Karapetian, the village Skhvilisi Community Based Organization (CBO) head told us that the old wooden irrigation system channel in the village of Skhvilisi caused water loss, hence there was shortage of water and community was hardly able to irrigate its agricultural land plots.
“Up to 50 locals worked on the rehabilitation of the irrigation channel after which, new metal construction was installed to prevent water loss affecting up to 70% of villagers,” Karapetian commented, emphasizing the involvement of local government in this project.
Over the past two years, RDA has implemented 47 small business development initiatives and 25 more entrepreneurs are expected to be selected for further support within USAID Zrda and bp partnership. Right now, given the state of emergency in the country due to the COVID 19 pandemic, many of the entrepreneurs have to adapt to the new reality and think of ways to maintain normal running operation.
Shoghakat Ribakov, sewing shop owner in the village of Zemo Skhvilisi who has bought different inventories and machines within the Community Development Initiative program started sewing protective face masks and gloves for agricultural work. Given the lack of demand on other items and shortage of protection items, Ribakov decided to adapt: “After I started sewing face masks in the village, given the global shortage, some were even taken to the hospitals,” the entrepreneur told us.
Within the joint program, USAID Zrda and bp are making every effort to improve livelihoods and increase community resilience through support to sustainable, social and economic development projects that respond to the needs of the local population and have the potential to positively impact the target communities including by creating employment and income-generation opportunities.