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Former Members of the European Parliament Visit EU-supported Rural Development Project in Lagodekhi

Former Members of the European Parliament Visit EU-supported Rural Development Project in Lagodekhi

3 October 2019, Lagodekhi – The delegation of former members of the European Parliament paid an official visit to Lagodekhi to learn about EU-supported rural development project and meet with EU beneficiaries. The visit included a meeting with Lagodekhi Local Action Group (LAG) and visits to Lagodekhi Protected Areas, as well as rural development initiatives – “ENPARD terrace” in Lagodekhi and “Energy Efficiency Cucumber Greenhouse” in Heretiskari.
The visit began in Lagodekhi Protected Areas, where the guests met with the Visitors’ Centre’s Director and rangers. Visitors’ Centre staff and management were trained under an EU Twinning project some years ago. A short stroll in the protected areas highlighted the structured approach management takes towards education and communication with visitors.
Furthermore, the delegation of former MEPs met with the EU-supported Local Action Group (LAG) in Lagodekhi and representatives of EU’s partner organization “Care” implementing the rural development project in the municipality. The Lagodekhi LAG brings together representatives from private sector, civil society and local authorities and acts as an independent platform to stimulate the local development of the municipality. It is one of the twelve LAGs established with EU support in different regions of Georgia. 
The guests also visited EU-supported ENPARD terrace and book café arranged in “Wald Hotel” in the territory of Lagodekhi Protected Areas. This rural development initiative has notably increased the number of visitors to Lagodekhi and sparked economic activities in the city. Resident farmers supply the café with locally produced agricultural products. The initiative employees 12 persons, majority of them are youth and women.
The programme of former MEP’s visit to Lagodekhi concluded with a visit to EU-supported “Energy Efficiency Cucumber Greenhouse” in the village Heretiskari. The guests met with owner of the greenhouse, Tengiz Beridze who is an Ajarian ecomigrant. The disabled man dropped the state assistance and built cucumber greenhouse with EU’s ENPARD grant. With the help of the greenhouse Beridze family now has a stable income. Beridze family seasonally employees 3 locals as well.
Agriculture and rural development are a backbone of Georgia’s economy, with half of the country’s population living in rural areas and employed in agriculture. Therefore, revitalization of the sector is among the country’s top priorities. EU has long been assisting Georgia in its efforts to improve lives in rural areas and to increase the welfare of its population, which in turn has helped stimulate the country’s sustainable economic growth. Under EU-funded ENPARD programme, over 360 rural development initiatives have been supported in the country, over 60 of them in Lagodekhi municipality. These initiatives are boosting production and services in the areas of agriculture, tourism, social and rural infrastructure and environment. They have already provided better employment to over 1000 rural households and benefited more than 10,000 people across the country.
The European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD) is recognised as one of the most successful agriculture and rural development initiatives funded by the European Union in Georgia. Implemented since 2013 with a total budget of EUR 179.5 million, the main goal of ENPARD is to reduce rural poverty in the country. The first phase of ENPARD in Georgia focused on developing the potential of agriculture. The second and the third phases focus on creating diversified economic opportunities for rural population that go beyond agricultural activities. More information on ENPARD is available at: www.enpard.ge