On April 5, USAID Mission Director Stephen Haykin distributed emergency-funded seed potato in the villages of Ghulelebi and Simonaantkhevi– two of the six communities in Dusheti and Tianeti municipalities which sustained severe damage in the July 2012 hail storm.

    USAID is supporting economic growth and improved incomes in rural and vulnerable communities of the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region by assisting those affected by natural or other disasters through New Economic Opportunities (NEO) Initiative.

    “Starting today, NEO will distribute 40 tons of class “A” potato seeds to 1,600 affected households to re-establish potato production in Tianeti. As a result of this initiative, and the improved quality of the potato seeds, each household should harvest an estimated 250 kilograms of ware potatoes for self-consumption or sale in September-October 2013,” Haykin said in his address to the local population.

    He said it is not the first agricultural recovery initiative of USAID in these six hail-affected communities. Immediately after the storm, the organization arrived to study the situation and develop an action plan on how to best address the post-disaster needs of farmers’ in the vegetable and livestock sectors.

    Trying to generate the maximum impact on economic development in the target municipalities and address the most urgent issues facing the local communities in the frames of NEO, Haykin hoped that this four-year, USD 20 million project will support increased growth, employment, and household incomes in the rural communities of Georgia.

    Malkhaz Davitashvili, Head of Tianeti Municipal Administration, welcomed the fact that agriculture is a priority field in Georgia. He said that the local population has been looking forward to the seed potato with great hope. Locals in Ghulelebi said last July’s hail left them without a potato harvest. Welcoming USAID’s assistance they said they needed seeds very much, as the spring activities are underway. They also recollected how the multi-mineral feed blocks provided by NEO within the emergency support have enhanced animal nutrition, improved livestock productivity, and reduced their feed costs over the winter.

    Pavle Mgeladze Head of the Marketing Research and Strategic Development Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, said the initiative of USAID fills the ministry’s activities as when farmers receive agricultural vouchers to cultivate the land, they can plant these potato seeds and be confident that they will have a good harvest and satisfy their needs.

    Mgeladze said that the ministry also plans to regulate the distribution of lands among farmers throughout the country, thus creating cooperatives to help unite the problems and challenges of particular communities and motivate them to assist one another. “Legislation that will regulate the area of the cooperatives and define the number of its members is being elaborated,” he told The Messenger. Mgeladze said the ministry wants to create an environment that encourages people to return to the villages, start cultivating lands, producing harvest and developing the country’s agriculture, as well as attract attention of those living abroad to invest in Georgian lands.

    The Messenger Online