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BP aids Georgian countryside

By Messenger staff
Friday, November 20
Oil Company BP, which runs the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, has announced the completion of another stage of its Community Investment Programme which grants aid to residents of the areas near the pipeline.

USD 8 million was spent on the construction of the BTC/SCP pipelines (2003-2006), 5.5 million on general projects implemented in the settlements in the vicinity of the pipeline corridor and 2.5 million on school improvement. The total budget of the second phase of the Community Investment Programme in Georgia at this operational stage is USD 4.38 million. The programme has already provided aid for more than 70 villages.

One project involved helping Georgian farmers to start up small businesses, an example quoted being the Akhaltsikhuri milk factory in the village of Tsnisi. The factory has already started working and can process more than 10 tonnes of milk per day. The factory’s products – cheese, sour cream and cottage cheese - have already appeared in the shops and restaurants of Georgia, including some in Tbilisi.

The factory directly employs about 25 residents of the village, however even more are stimulated to sell their milk for processing. The price of the purchased milk varies in different seasons from GEL 0.4 to GEL 0.6 per litre, but this sum can give a farmer a monthly income of up to GEL 300. “This money is quite good for the countryside; our whole family manages to get by with this. There is no other workplace in Tsnisi apart from the factory,” a local resident told The Messenger.

The head of Akhaltsikhuri, Nino Zambakhidze, noted that it would have been impossible to start the business without the assistance of BP and other investors. “It’s too early to speak about income yet, as we have just started, however I can say that we have already had so many requests for our production that we are physically unable to fulfil them all,” stated Zambakhidze. She noted that the reason for this is the “superior quality” of the products. “We have the strictest control at the factory, we test each jar of milk,” stated Zambakhidze.

The milk factory is not the only instance of BP aid to Tsnisi. At the request of locals the company helped them build a house of rituals – a place where Tsnisians can gather to celebrate weddings and birthdays and mourn at funerals.

Another successful project was conducted by BP in a neighbouring village of the same Akhaltsikhe district. A group of women, the primary targets of the BP small business investment project, applied for a grant by presenting a business plan for creating a hairdressing studio and bathing room in the village. “Almost all the local residents are having their hair cut at our place, and we have quite reasonable prices, not more than GEL 3 for a grown up and GEL 2 for a child’s haircut,” stated the founder of the business.

Overall BP has supported the creation and maintenance of 103 demonstration farms, 15 producer groups with 77 members and 10 service providers with about 1,000 members. According to the company this has created a more than 20%, and in some cases more than 40%, increase in income for the farmers.35 new small businesses have been established with the support of programme grants. 3 agricultural consolidation centres have been set up which help more than 600 Georgian farmers access markets all over the country.

BP assists small businesses from a sewing shop to a bakery. “BP conducts these kind of programmes in all countries where it operates. Our main target is the Georgian population living near the pipeline at a range of 3-4 kilometres. We are trying to develop the local communities and infrastructure in order to assist the people and build confidence and trust in the company,” BP spokesperson Tamila Chantladze told The Messenger on November 13. She added that the company is going to continue conducting such programmes and their main target will be the development of agriculture.