The Swiss Embassy in Georgia for Racha’s Sustainable Development

Racha, the mountainous region located in the north-western part of Georgia, is one of the most beautiful things about the Pearl of the Caucasus. Georgia is often compared to Switzerland in its beauty, landscapes, climate and agricultural potential. However, in terms of development, Georgia still has a long way to go to reach the heights of Switzerland. That is one of the reasons the Swiss Embassy in Georgia has supported sustainable development in mountainous regions of Georgia for years already.

GEORGIA TODAY had a chance to interview Patric Franzen, the Ambassador of Switzerland to Georgia, who talked briefly about Racha, Georgia, Switzerland, the friendship between the two, and regional development. “For us, regional development is extremely important: there’s also a huge potential for the development of tourism in the region [of Racha]. We put a great emphasis on women empowerment here as well as on climate adaptation. In the area of climate change adaptation, we have the same challenges in Switzerland; our two countries are very similar and we have a lot to share.”

Production of wine, honey, dairy and meat products is expanding by the day in Racha, thanks in large part to the project implemented by the UNDP with the support of Swiss Government. The project takes the responsibility of supporting, funding and training locals interested in being entrepreneurs in different specialties.

The berry growing culture is also becoming more and more common in Racha. Guliza Chikviladze, participant of the project, grows four varieties of berry on her 1500 m2 land plot. “This program has given me a great opportunity,” she told us. “While I was being trained to grow berries organically and get involved in this business, I realized the value of staying here in Racha, working on the land I love and getting paid in return.”

Honey producing and bee keeping is another specialty of agriculture that’s developing more and more as days go by and which is also part of the abovementioned project. Giorgi Beruchashvili, a participant of the program, was trained in bee keeping and honey making and is now a student trainer himself. Giorgi said; “I’m grateful for this project. Bee keeping and honey making is a fascinating, beautiful job. I started teaching it at school and was happily surprised when kids showed an interest in it. I think the field will find great development here in Racha.”

Producing meat and its products in a clean, equipped environment is also becoming big in Racha. The company Blauenstein is producing meat products such as dried ham, and works on improving the quality of livestock by crossing local varieties with Swiss ones. The company is equipped with a modern laboratory and a slaughterhouse. Blauenstein Georgia is also one of the 27 companies that implements Switzerland’s 'work-based learning’ component of the VET project which aims to give real-life experience on farms to students of agricultural colleges. As a part of the project, a mobile vet clinic was provided for the factory. It was on the territory of LTD. Blauenstein Georgia that the Ambassador of Switzerland to Georgia, Patrick Franzen said, that “when I’m standing here in Racha, I think I’m on the lands of Switzerland.” Blauenstein Georgia also has a shop in Tbilisi.

If there’s anything Racha is well-known for, it’s the region’s wine. You can never know how a taste can be described as “beautiful” until you taste Rachvelian wine Khvanchkara. The UNDP project is well aware of this and made sure to include Rachvelian wine in its project. Sulkhan Gonadze is the Head of Association ‘Khvanchkara’ and a participant of the wine agriculture development project. He and two other entrepreneurs grow vineyards on 25 hectares and produce wine organically. “I’m happy about this project and hope that wine culture can be further developed here,” Gonadze told us. “Racha is a motherland to this particular wine of Khvanchkara, it was first produced in the village of Chorjo, 10 kilometers from here, almost 200 years ago. It’s important to carry on this tradition. Now that we’re learning how to grow grapes organically and are slowly getting more and more equipped to do so, I’m starting to have a hope for the future, after all.”

By Nini Dakhundaridze

17 June 2019 18:37