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With EU and FAO support, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia consults stakeholders on a revised draft of Agricultural Extension Strategy

With EU and FAO support, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia consults stakeholders on a revised draft of Agricultural Extension Strategy

1 November 2019, Tbilisi – The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia continues public consultations on the adoption of the revised Agricultural Extension Strategy of Georgia 2018-2020. The draft strategy was presented to representatives of major stakeholders, international donor organizations and development partners. The primary goal of the strategy is to improve the competitiveness of the Georgian agricultural sector by delivering quality and cost-efficient advising services to the farmers. This is to be achieved by transforming the existing 54 information and consultation centers into a modern extension service focused on real needs of farmers. The strategy is prepared by the Ministry with the support of FAO, under the EU-funded ENPARD programme, and in close collaboration with the Extension Working Group.
The discussion was opened by Mr. Giorgi Khanishvili, First Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia and the Head of the Extension Working Group, Mr. Georges Dehoux, Programme Manager for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Safety at the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia and Mr. Javier Sanz Alvarez, FAO-ENPARD Coordination Officer. 
Mr. Kahanishvili thanked the EU and FAO for their significant support in the process of drafting the strategy document and stressed the importance of extension and the role of government in the process of agricultural development in the country. “Involvement of all the stakeholders in the draft Agricultural Extension Strategy discussion will ensure forming the comprehensive strategy document,” – stated the Deputy Minister.
Mr. Dehoux stated that EU welcomed the Ministry’s decision to involve all stakeholders in the drafting of the strategy and considers it as an important step in ensuring its focus, relevance and inclusiveness, at a time of substantial contextual changes in the Georgian agricultural sector.
Furthermore, FAO and MEPA experts highlighted the changes incorporated in the strategy. The document includes a new initiative of creating Demonstration Chain Network, one of the mechanisms for teaching and consulting farmers. The chain will unite 276 private as well as public demo plots in Georgia. Other new entries in the document concern arrangement of the Farmer Community Councils (Farmer Field Schools) and greater involvement and coordination of the private sector. These processes will be supervised by a new institutional management established within the Ministry – the Agricultural and Rural Development Agency (ARDA).
Remarks and comments by the meeting participants – representatives of public, private and civil sector and international organizations, will be further processed by the Extension Working Group and reflected in the next draft of the strategy document. 
Racha-Lechkhumi and Guria are the two pilot regions for the implementation of Agricultural Extension Strategy of Georgia 2018-2020. These two particular regions were selected by the following criteria: density of land and farming population; farming activities, natural resources and climate typical for Georgian agriculture; as well as active involvement of international donors. The pilots will be expanded and replicated in other regions to achieve full national coverage.
The existing 54 Information and Consultation Centers, covered by the draft strategy, were established and developed with the support of the EU under the ENPARD programme. The EU has also supported the establishment of the extension center for 5 municipalities in Adjara AR. Up to now, over 300,000 small farmers have benefited from the consultation and advice provided by these centers on the best agricultural practices, new technologies and market opportunities.
The EU is supporting agriculture and rural development in Georgia through its ENPARD Programme. Implemented since 2013 with a total budget of EUR 179.5 million, the main goal of ENPARD is to reduce rural poverty in Georgia. The first phase of ENPARD in Georgia focused on developing the potential of agriculture. The second and third phases of ENPARD focus on creating economic opportunities for rural population that go beyond agricultural activities. More information on ENPARD is available at www.enpard.ge