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Brock Bierman Visits Beneficiaries of USAID Programs

Tuesday, March 6
Brock Bierman Visits Beneficiaries of USAID Programs By Levan Khutsishvili 1: “Smart Greenhouse System” presentation 2: USAID Zrda, in partnership with the Anaklia Consortium, will promote community and economic development in Anaklia and surrounding communities 3 Giorgi Mirtskhulava explains to Brock Bierman Anaklia Deep Sea Port’s development plans 4: 'We are planning to add a third floor…' 5: USAID funded Farconi teas and spices hits foreign markets On March 2-3, 2018 Brock Bierman, Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Europe and Eurasia, with a USAID delegation, made a two-day visit to Samgerelo and Imereti to meet USAID beneficiaries of the Zrda Activity in Georgia (Zrda) and Restoring Efficiency to Agriculture Production (REAP) program.

Smart technologies boost farmers’ revenue

In the village of Tsaishi, in Samegrelo, local farmer Giorgi Svirava runs a “smart greenhouse” where he primarily grows lettuce and cucumbers. From an initial 250 sq.m plot, his greenhouse quickly expanded to 1100 sq.m. Through USAID’s Zrda and the Charity Humanitarian Center Abkhazeti’s interest-free loan program, Giorgi procured new equipment and has nowadded tomatoes to his plot.

“If not for this U.S. government program, my business could not have been so successful. Modern equipment and smart technologies have helped me to boost my greenhouse’s productivity and income.” – Giorgi Sviravasaid. Brock Bierman also expressed interest in greenhouse functioning processes and average revenue from annual harvests. Sviravare marked that last winter he produced 12 tons of tomatoes; with an average price of 5 Gel per kg, and sold it in core markets in Tbilisi.

Giorgi Svirava demonstrates “smart technology” that controls greenhouse operations such as humidity, temperature, ventilation, and irrigation. The system was developed by two students from Tbilisi Agrarian University through a pilot project supported by USAID Zrda”.

“It is mobile phone-based system, which simplifies greenhouse operations, and at the same time is very cheap to produce. USAID Zrda was glad to support students in developing and commercializing this ‘smart’ greenhouse system.” –Brian King, Chief of Party of the USAID Zrda Activity.

“Locals are figuring out that greenhouses can create as much income as huge plantations of hazelnuts – that’s why the number of greenhouses is increasing. Because of the thermal water systems, heating for greenhouses is very cheap, and with the help of USAID’s Zrda program, farmers are producing high quality products. The cucumbers in Tsaishi are already like a brand, they’re known for the best quality” - said Ia Esebua, Zrda Regional Economic Development Advisor.

The first greenhouses (250 sq.m) in Tsaishi appeared in 2011-2012 with the help of USAID.Since then, greenhouses have expandedto over 6 hectares in the Tsaishi area and are still growing.

Enguri Hydropower dam needs some help

BrockBierman and the USAID delegation visited the Enguri Dam – the main artery of electricity in the region. The Assistant Administrator learned about the main challenges and needs of the power station. The Enguri power station administration representative noted that efficiency is no longer the problem but rather sustainability. The dam needs to be frequently cleaned while tunnels and turbines need to be repaired. Although the dam has some money for repairs and renovations, much more is needed.

The USAID delegation then visited the Anaklia Deep Sea Port area. Deputy General Director of the Anaklia Consortium Giorgi Mirtskhulava shared with them detailed information about ongoing and planned activities. USAID Assistant Administrator Brock Bierman learned about future cooperation plans between Anaklia Development Consortium (ADC) and USAID’s Zrda activity. The ADC and Zrda will collaborate through a Public Private Partnership model, and already have identified new areas to develop further. The ADC and USAID Zrda will promote community and economic development in Anaklia and surrounding communities, and will focus on workforce development and supporting local small and medium enterprises.

“USAID has 25 years of experience working effectively with Georgian society. We are a newly established company, working on a huge project, and this partnership with USAID will be the guarantee of success.” – Mirtskhulava told The Messenger.

“Anaklia Deep Sea Port is a tremendous project, I was told about future plans and I saw a map of future development, marvelous plans! Anaklia is going to be a truly modern city.” - said Brock Bierman.

Anaklia is a popular tourist destination on the Black Sea Coast. USAID’s Zrda provided guesthouse owners (319 in total) with digital marketing training and American Hotel and Lodging Association Education Institute (AHLAEI) certificate training courses. As a result, theses beneficiaries improved their performance and attracted more tourists, generating approximately $1.3 million in additional revenues in 2017.

Marina Todua, owner of the “White House Anaklia” guesthouse, is one of the beneficiaries of the project. After her USAID training courses, she registered on hotel now has high reviews(the guesthouse registers an 8.3 score) and is quite popular among visitors. As Todua told to Bierman, her rooms are already reserved for half the season this year.Moreover, in order to better manage the guesthouse, her family is planning to move from Tbilisi to Anaklia and enlarge the guesthouse with five more rooms. Bierman suggested that cooperation with Anaklia Deep Sea Port could be important for guesthouse development, as Port construction will need many workers and ‘White House Anaklia’ could provide them with accommodations. “I am impressed, ‘Anaklia White House’ is a modern facility, and as nice as an American facility.” – Bierman told to journalists.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug – big problem for Samegrelo

The brown marmorated stink bug was first detected in Georgia in 2016 and still remains a major problem for Georgian agriculture. According to official data from 2016, the stink bug caused between $50 and $70 million in damage to the hazelnut sector. Zviadi Shedania, a hazelnut farm owner, told guests from USAID about his problems with the stink bug. “This hazelnut farm is already 20 years old, and we’ve never gone a whole year without a harvest, but last year we couldn’t even collect one kilo of hazelnuts. The stink bug has destroyed everything, we were expecting around 3.5-4 tons of hazelnuts to harvest, but…” – said Mr. Shedania.

USAID provides support to Georgia’s smallholder farmers to improve their productivity and combat the stink bug through USAID’s Georgian Hazelnut Improvement Project, a public-private partnership between USAID and AgriGeorgia, a subsidiary of the multinational confectionery company Ferrero.

The Delegation’s visit to Samegrelo ended with lunch in the USAID Zrda supported Café El-Barco. With Zrda technical assistance, the owner Roza Ablotia, renovated her café with new tables, chairs, and a modern kitchen.

USAID funded Farconi teas and spices hits foreign markets

Assistant Administrator Brock Bierman’s tour ended in Kutaisi, Imereti by visiting the USAID REAP program beneficiary agribusiness – Farconi. Marketing Manager Giorgi Alpaidze guided the tour and explained that Farconi is a collector and processor of wild berries, bay leaves and medical herbs. With the support of USAID, Farconi introduced a new dried fruit and tea processing and packaging line. In total, the company produces four types of tea and several types of spices and has created 55 new jobs – including 37 for women. According to Alpaidze, the company received ISO 22000 certificate through REAP’s assistance. Since working with REAP, Farconi has successfully entered theUS, Hong Kong and Dutch markets.

“Georgia is my favorite country. People here are very open and welcoming. It was a tremendous opportunity to meet with different people, to speak with them and see that they have a hope and are excited. We met people associated with USAID programs, and it is tremendous to see their progress. So USAID will be here for a long time, helping Georgian people, whether it be hazelnut farms, ports or modern factories, we are looking forward to helping Georgian people.” – Mr.Brock Bierman concluded his trip to Georgia with The Messenger.