Georgia’s villages of tomorrow
Posted June 1, 2022
While agriculture contributes less than eight percent to Georgia’s GDP, the sector still serves as a major source of jobs in rural communities. Unfortunately, its low-income levels keep many families in poverty.
Boosting rural entrepreneurship and promoting non-agricultural livelihoods can help to transform rural lifestyles in Georgia, bringing new opportunities to regions like the Adjara Autonomous Republic.
Waterfall rappelling opens a new chapter in the development of the Ajara highlands.
The village of Uchkho is a hidden gem of the Ajara highlands, with stunning views of majestic mountains.
Here, twelve waterfalls cascade through a 1.5-kilometre canyon and are a thrill-seeker’s dream. As pandemic restrictions began to ease in the summer of 2021, tourists, eager for fresh air and excitement, came to Uchko for the canyon’s heights, awesome views and a three-hour breath-taking slide down its waterfalls.
To promote tourism, an EU and UNDP Rural Development grant programme supported the construction of bases, holding points and ten well-equipped rappelling stations along the trail. The grant also provided training for six local guides and helped ensure compliance with local health and safety rules.
“Canyoneering gives you a feeling of being part of nature, a kick of adrenalin and positive energy — I am overwhelmed with today’s adventure!”Rusudan, a tour participant, after safely roping down a 30-metre waterfall.
After welcoming the first tourists in August 2021, waterfall rappelling is opening a new chapter in the development of the Ajara highlands and will create new opportunities for greener and more sustainable growth.
Smiles full of teeth
A dental lab changes life in a mountainous village.
Besik Dekenadze of mountainous Khulo wanted his community to have beautiful smiles full of teeth.
After graduating from medical college, his remarkable perseverance to develop a local service for his community paid off. He started a dentistry lab in just a tiny room with a basic device to make dentures.
Today, he serves patients as far as Batumi. Instead of Khulo residents travelling to Batumi for dental care, people from Batumi are now making the trek here to seek out Besik’s quality services and affordable prices.
“I want people to have beautiful smiles and lots of teeth,”Besik Dekenadze.
In 2021, the grant programme helped Besik to transform his dental lab and expand his workshop with a digital scanner and hi-tech denture-modelling tools.
Hiding in the woods
Rural projects unlock the development potential of Machakhela Gorge
In 2012, Machakhela Gorge village was granted the status of National Park, largely due to efforts by Georgia’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, UNDP and the Global Environment Facility. New opportunities for sustainable green growth opened as tourists poured into the region to enjoy its lush forests, mountain views and exquisite cuisine.
Natia Kakhidze is convinced that the park is the best place in the world to enjoy nature, relax and get away from stress.
She left a successful career in bustling Batumi to return to her home village in Machakhela Gorge to build ‘Woodhide', a fairy-tale guesthouse deep in the national park. She started her increasingly popular business with support from the Ajara AR Government as part of the grant programme.
“Projects like this bring a new life into our village and our region. They show what we can do to build our future,”Natia Kakhidze.
She believes that rural projects can unlock the development potential of Machakhela Gorge and help people explore new prospects in environmental tourism.
Since 2017, Georgia has been working to diversify rural economies, reduce poverty and make rural areas a better place for entrepreneurship, employment, education, health care, technology and climate action. The EU and UNDP have been supporting this transformation by helping the country create policy frameworks and by assisting local projects initiated by rural residents.
In 2020 and 2021, over 80 rural entrepreneurs joined the grant programme. The US$3 million programme ran in partnership with the Rural Development Agency of Georgia’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture. Regional and municipal governments also contributed, particularly in the Ajara Autonomous Republic, where EU and UNDP support inspired dozens of successful local projects.