New EU-AFD Development Project Launched

Last week, the European Union (EU) and L’Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD) launched a largescale new development initiative designed to support small-scale commercial farms and cooperatives in Georgia. The project, titled Finance & Extension & Cooperative Development for Georgian Farmers (FinExCoop Georgia), kicked off with a launch conference on Thursday, October 3. Over the next four years, the EU and AFD will spend four million EUR on the project, which operates within the EU’s ENPARD Program. ENPARD (European Neighborhood Program for Agriculture and Rural Development) began in 2013 and has a total budget of 179.5 million EUR. Its goal is to provide economic opportunities in rural areas and reduce poverty in Georgia.

While many ENPARD projects are focused on specific municipalities, FinExCoop Georgia addresses access to finance and extension by small-scale farms and cooperatives across the country using a pilot-project approach. The project is implemented in partnership with the consulting and development firm Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, well known international non-governmental organization Mercy Corps, one of the leading national non-governmental organizations in the country, Rural Development for Future Georgia (RDFG), and French institution, Chambre d’Agriculture du Loiret.

Thursday’s conference opened with remarks by Giorgi Khanishvili, First Deputy Minister of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia, George Dehoux, Program Manager for Agriculture and Food Safety at the EU Delegation to Georgia, and Gaëlle Assayag, Head of AFD’s regional office for the South Caucasus. All the speakers emphasized the importance of extending credit to small farmers and the value of having high quality extension services available, both public and private.

“We expect our new FinExCoop project to positively contribute to the new approaches to deal with the strategic challenges for the future of Georgian agriculture, rural development and the development of the more inclusive pattern of economic development required by Georgia’s advanced democratic institutions,” said Dehoux.

The conference brought together key stakeholders in Georgia’s agricultural sector to inform them on the objectives and expected results of the project and to receive feedback from other actors active in the field, including representatives of the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture, ENPARD implementing partners, international donors and financial institutions, international and local NGOs, leading agricultural cooperatives and unions, and farmers themselves. The event finished with a conversation from a panel of experts whose sectors will be involved in FinExCoop Georgia, moderated by project lead Christophe Cordonnier.

AFD is a public financial institution which serves as the main actor for implementing France’s development policy worldwide. AFD works in many sectors – agriculture, energy, health, biodiversity, water, digital technologies – and its action is fully in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2018, it earmarked EUR 11.4bn to finance development projects. Since 2016, AFD has been working with the Government of Georgia to establish a strong, productive partnership. They currently have an active portfolio of 250 million EUR in Georgia.

FinExCoop Georgia ties into AFD’s network of global programming that aims to increase financial inclusion and access to markets for small-scale commercial farmers. A preliminary component of the project was financed by Proparco, an AFD subsidiary dedicated to supporting the private sector, through agro-credit lines extended to two major Georgian financial institutions.

By Samantha Guthrie

Photo: Frankfurt School of Finance and Management

07 October 2019 17:05