Linking Farmers to Solutions in the Republic of Georgia

Posted by on June 14th, 2017 | 0 Comments »

This blog is one of several stories about initiatives to improve agricultural extension systems from the Invest in Public Agricultural Research, Development and Extension section of the 2016 Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (GAP Report®).

In 2014, the European Union removed the import duties from qualified agricultural goods produced in the Democratic Republic of Georgia, giving the country’s farmers duty-free access to one of the wealthiest markets in the world. [1]

But decades of under-investment have left Georgia’s farmers ill-equipped and unprepared to take advantage of this new market opportunity. In addition, poor agronomic practices and changing climate patterns have degraded 35 percent of the agricultural land, with nearly 3 million hectares of arable land lost to soil and wind erosion. [2]

At a time when many countries are looking to the private sector and NGO communities to supplement their meager extension systems, Georgia is committed to developing a robust, innovative public sector extension system that is farmer-driven and pulls from a wide spectrum of experts and resources.

The Georgia Ministry of Agriculture has more than doubled its annual budget and a significant portion of the new investment is for the public extension and advisory services system.  The goal of this investment is to create an extension system that links producers with the information and technologies they need to improve their productivity and business operations.

In support of their efforts, USAID funded the Strengthening Extension and Advisory Services in Georgia (SEAS) initiative, a partnership (2013–2016) between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Modernizing Extension and Advisory Services Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

SEAS (pronounced “say-as”) helped extension officials build an organizational structure that prioritized the needs of farmers. They also encouraged partnerships between farmers and extension agents to identify opportunities for innovation and knowledge sharing. [3]

The Republic of Georgia’s improved extension and advisory services help farmers increase the productivity of their orchards. Photo: Givi Pirtskhalava / World Bank

They also identified new communications methods to reach more farmers more efficiently. For example, the SEAS team created videos on best-practices for orchard and vineyard management, soil nutrition and testing and vegetable grafting that were broadcast by the Georgian Association of Regional Broadcasters. [4]

Extension experts from six universities in the U.S. and Israel came to Georgia to “train the trainers,” providing extension agents with the latest technical knowledge and improving their outreach skills. The SEAS initiative ended in 2016, but multilateral donors and development agencies are stepping in to ensure that Georgia’s EAS system will continue to expand and thrive.

[1] Giorgi Lomsadze, “Georgia Prepares to Bet the Farm on Europe,” EurasiaNet.org, (September 2, 2014).

[2] The World Bank, “Integrating Environment in Agriculture and Forestry: Progress and Prospects in Eastern Europe and Central Asia: Georgia — Country Review,” (November 2007), 6.

[3-4] Benjamin Mueller and Roland Smith, “Final Report: Strengthening Extension and Advisory Services in Georgia (SEAS),” University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and USAID, (2016), 2-4.

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