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Georgian Government consults draft national strategy for agricultural extension

Georgian Government consults draft national strategy for agricultural extension

Strategy developed with EU and FAO support, aims to improve the quality of advising services for farmers in regions by upgrading existing consultation centres
7 November 2017, Tbilisi – Up to 50 representatives of international donors, stakeholders and partners of the Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia gathered to discuss the draft National Strategy for Agricultural Extension in Georgia 2018-2019. The draft strategy was prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture with the support of the European Union (EU) in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Revaz Asatiani presented the policy document.  The event is part of a broader consultation process conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture.  
The primary goal of the strategy is to improve the competitiveness of the agriculture sector in Georgia by delivering quality advising services to the farmers. This is to be achieved by upgrading the existing 54 Information and Consultation Centres (ICCs) throughout Georgia, into a more coherent, results-oriented farmer demand-driven national extension service. Initially this will be achieved through reorganisation of resources within the Ministry of Agriculture to provide national, regional and municipal layers of extension.  
The implementation of the extension strategy 2018-2019 will be conducted in two phases. In the first phase, in 2018, a pilot extension packages will be introduced in selected regions. The extension packages will address a particular crop or livestock enterprise, or a specific area of farm business. Each package will comprise a range of information materials and information dissemination plan setting out exactly how and when the materials and media will be used to convey the messages to farmers, also quantitative targets for the number of farmers to be reached in different ways, and for the ultimate impact of the extension.
Pilot regions include Racha-Lechkhumi and Guria. During the second phase, in 2019, the pilots will be expanded and replicated in other regions to achieve full national coverage. 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 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, approximately 250,000 small farmers have benefited from the consultation and advice provided by these centers on the best agricultural practices, new technologies and market opportunities.
Cristina Casella, Attaché, Programme Manager at the EU Delegation to Georgia emphasised the importance of the strategy. “It is of critical importance to have a strategic framework guiding the development of extension services to ensure that these provide the most effective services to farmers.  We are very happy to partake in this stakeholder consultation process leading to the finalisation of the national extension strategy,” stated Cristina Casella.  
Javier SanzAlvarez, FAO Coordination Support Officer, underscored the contribution of FAO in strengthening extension and advisory service, as the key to supporting the agricultural and rural development sectors in Georgia. “The FAO/ENPARD Programme has provided extensive technical assistance to support the Working Group created at the Ministry of Agriculture for the purpose of developing this strategy for Georgia. Culmination of this work is the draft extension strategy being presented today. This document will provide a guide for the future development of extension services in Georgia. The implementation of this extension strategy will help the Ministry of Agriculture to better support farmers in Georgian villages,” SanzAlvarez noted.
The Strategy presentation brought together key stakeholders, including government, EU and other international donors, non-governmental and international organizations.
The European Union is supporting agriculture and rural development in Georgia through its ENPARD Programme. Implemented since 2013 with a total budget of EUR 102 million (2013-2019), the main goal of ENPARD is to reduce rural poverty in Georgia. More information on ENPARD is available at: www.enpard.ge.