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USAID to Support the Development of Dusheti and Kazbegi Municipalities

By Salome Modebadze
Tuesday, August 7
On Friday, August 3, 2012, USAID Mission Director Stephen Haykin joined Deputy Governor of the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region, Nunu Mghebrishvili and the heads of the Dusheti and Kazbegi municipal administrations to sign two memoranda of understanding (MOU) under USAID’s New Economic Opportunities Initiative (NEO).

“Today we were here to sign a memorandum of understanding with the authorities of the Dusheti and Kazbegi municipalities as part of our NEO Initiative. This is an activity that works with communities to identify the infrastructure improvements, the training and economic opportunities for the economies in this region,” Haykin told The Messenger.

NEO will achieve these goals through four components: local economic development planning, rural economic development, assistance to strengthen vulnerable households, and promoting of the sustainability of IDP housing that is being rehabilitated with the support from the United States government. Over the life of the project, NEO’s support will benefit at least 70,000 vulnerable households in ten municipalities: Dusheti, Kazbegi, Kareli, Gori, Khashuri, Oni, Tsageri, Lentekhi, Zugdidi and Tsalenjikha.

The $20 million, four-year NEO project launched in 2011 is already active in all eight target communities in Dusheti and in all three target communities within the Kazbegi municipality. NEO will invest $220,000 in various rehabilitation projects in the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region, as a result of which, approximately 1,520 households are expected to benefit from the eleven small-scale infrastructure projects implemented in this region. In addition, NEO plans to invest in rural development through technical assistance, grants, and trainings.

NEO Regional Development Advisor Nikoloz Gvishiani, said the MOU with Dusheti and Kazbegi municipalities will formalize various aspects of cooperation with the project, including the development of community economic development plans (EDPs), the implementation of selected infrastructure rehabilitation projects; rural economic development through the value chain approach and assistance to highly vulnerable households and individuals. In addition, the Letters of Intent signed at the event would formalize the cooperation between the municipality and NEO for the implementation of specific community-level infrastructure rehabilitation projects in the Mchadijvari, Bazaleti and Ananuri communities of the Dusheti municipality and in the Stepantsminda community in the Kazbegi Municipality.

“In order to help the communities and villages, we are actively cooperating with the local municipalities,” he said, explaining that their economic development plan is essential for eradicating the problems communities are facing in their regions. “People have identified their priorities and we only helped them formulate them,” Gvishiani told us, referring to the four main sectors prioritized by the Kvesheti and Ananuri communities which are agriculture, non-agriculture, infrastructure and social sectors.

Ani Katamidze, Head of the Association of the Young Economists of Georgia, NEO’s subcontractor organization, welcomed the “symbiosis” of tourism perspective and agriculture in Dusheti and Kazbegi. Since the handicrafts produced in the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region are very popular among tourists visiting Georgia, the locals believe there is a need for agricultural fairs as well as for the professionally trained tourist guides in these communities. To further develop the agricultural potential of the region, the local population is looking for new breeds of cattle with more milk producing capacity and new seeds for better harvest.

According to Deputy Governor of Mtskheta-Mtianeti, Nunu Mgebrishvili, the five-year strategic development plan of the region developed in accordance with international standards will consider the findings and recommendations from the NEO project. All these efforts will result in sustainable poverty reduction, improved household income levels for vulnerable populations and increased local government participation in addressing community needs.