The environmental crisis cannot be resolved without active engagement of the private sector and entrepreneurship that support sustainable and responsible use of resources. Steering the economy towards sustainability means establishing circular practices and supporting green businesses.
The development of a green economy in Georgia will promote the sustainable use of natural resources and reduce the negative impact on the environment. Given the sustainable development of the country’s economy, it will accelerate the implementation of clean consumption and production practices, attract green investments and create new green jobs. It will also prevent environmental degradation and depletion of natural resources, which will contribute to the well-being of the population. To support green business startups, for the second time in Georgia, a Green Economy School (GES) – a short-term green business development initiative – took place in Bulachauri, which was organized by CENN, “Georgian Forest Product” Association and the Agrarian Committee of the Parliament.
The Green Economy School (GES), helped students connect university resources with current state and international economic programs. The course aimed to support the students receive wide range of business and environmental knowledge including developing a business model and understanding the basics of circular economy.
The “Georgian Forest Product” Association, together with the Parliament of Georgia and CENN, held a training cycle for undergraduate and graduate students interested in entrepreneurship from October 31 to November 3 of this year. The initiative was supported by the European Union, Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands to generate new, important ideas that support the sustainability principles and implementation of Green Economy in Georgia. The participants of the Green Economy School were selected on the basis of a competition.
The first stage of the competition revealed 50 students and 9 participants with particular ideas, who participated in the 3-day training in Bulachauri Green Center. After consultation with partners and beneficiaries, the students will develop concepts for their business plans and submit them. The final stage will reveal three students with the best concepts and will be awarded grants.
This time, the GES initiative, which was organized under the project “The Rural Entrepreneurship Development Program” is carried out in cooperation with the Agrarian Committee of the Parliament of Georgia, Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands, CENN and Forest Product Association.
As a result of this project, students will have the opportunity to collaborate with forest product companies and work with them to develop business plans, obtain funding, and contribute to the development of the forest economy and poverty eradication in Georgia.
On the first day of the opening of the School of Green Economics, students worked with experts and mentors on a project to develop private initiatives in the forestry sector, learn about the potential of non-timber forest resources (NTFPs) in Georgia, and explore sustainable forest products collection, production and marketing.
In the following days, participants met with private companies and evaluated business opportunities based on specific examples, exchanged information directly with decision makers, and gained theoretical knowledge and practical experience in developing competitive business plans.
This initiative has two directions – educational and practical. The theoretical knowledge acquired at university is often difficult to apply in practice because people do not have the opportunity to get direct contact with experienced people working in the field. The School of Green Economics is working in this direction. Its program includes the creation and piloting of family, private, community, municipal, regional, or national models for the use of forest resources to meet sustainable development goals and strategic rural development objectives.
As part of the project, the students met with important representatives such as:
• Pavle Tvaliashvili, Facilitator and Business Development Expert
• Nino Tsilosani, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Agrarian Affairs and Chairman of the Permanent Parliamentary Council for Gender Equality
• Rezo Getiashvili, CENN Projects Manager
• Loes Lammerts, Deputy Ambassador of the Netherlands to Georgia
• Karlo Amirgulashvili, Head of Biodiversity and Forest Department at Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia
• Giorgi Gujaridze, director of the Georgian Forest Product Association.
The participants attended important trainings on the biomass potential in Georgia, forest use and forest sustainable development issues – the new forest code, and priorities in the circular economy, during which Teo Babunashvili, Entrepreneurship Program Manager of the “Produce in Georgia” program, spoke about how to formulate a business plan and how to present procedural issues of evaluation. The evening lecture was dedicated to the potential of eco-tourism and its opportunities in Georgia.
Nino Tsilosani, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Agrarian Affairs, stated: “On the one hand, we get ideas from participants that will definitely be used in the future, and on the other hand, participants get the resources they need at this stage. In implementing this project, we found people with such unique ideas among the young generations, who, with the help of business, the state, our trainings, will be able to implement their ideas. We are glad to undertake this project with the support of the qualified and high-reputation organization – CENN – providing us with the planning of all necessary skills and trainings for the students, aiming at an increase in their knowledge in every direction that can be a priority for the agricultural development.” She went on to thank the partner organizations and agencies and underlined the role of the Dutch Embassy in this process.
“I am happy to be here and to meet a new generation of Georgian students,” said Ms. Loes Lammerts, Deputy Ambassador of the Netherlands to Georgia. “Thanks, CENN and all the partner organizations for taking the initiative and contacting us. The Embassy of the Netherlands is by your side. The main thing is that students have the opportunity and power to work on new projects and learn different things from the private sector. I hope that the participants will get a lot of interesting information from this project and will have the opportunity to develop entrepreneurial skills. Georgia has the opportunity to change reality and give young people a chance to develop their own ideas and create unique products.”
The Rural Entrepreneurship Development Project helps students use their theoretical knowledge in practice.
“The trainings held at the Bulachauri Green Center, School of Green Economics, will significantly help students to improve their business ideas, develop new skills and also participate in the “Produce in Georgia” program,” said Giorgi Kavteladze, CENN representative. “The Rural Entrepreneurship Development Project serves exactly these purposes. Their activities and business models are aimed at solving various social problems. The majority of students are from the regions, so implementation of their ideas will contribute to the employment of locals living in rural areas. At the same time, there are some changes at the legislative level in terms of sustainable forest use, and this entire program is tailored to teach students how to use non-timber forest resources properly. Their ideas further strengthen the role of non-timber forest products in economic development and bring less harm to forests, which is very important.”
In the process of the development of the Green Economy in the country, the cooperation and involvement of both state institutions and the non-government sector is crucial. The role of the state in promoting the process and creating equal conditions for all the parties is important. In turn, the non-government sector promotes activities of quality and which are sustainable, and assists in ideas being turned into safe and fruitful businesses. This is important not only for economic progress but in terms of reducing environmental damage. As such, the collaboration of the Parliament of Georgia, CENN and the Association of the “Georgian Forest Product” in this Rural Entrepreneurship Development Project can be considered a successful example.
The ‘Georgian Forest Product’ Association, a structural organization that unites the organizations working on issues related to the use of non-timber forest resources, is also actively involved in educating young people on the importance of the green economy.
“During the seminars and discussions held on October 31-November 3, the Georgian Forest Product Association provided participant students with all the necessary information about the sustainable use of forest resources for their businesses, giving them practical advice and recommendations, which allowed them to look at their future business development from a different angle,” said Pavle Tvaliashvili, Project Facilitator. “When getting acquainted with their ideas, I was happy to see that we have a serious basis for building a good society in terms of entrepreneurship. Importantly, the information we delivered regarding the sustainable use of forest resources motivated them to further develop themselves as green entrepreneurs and seek out even more knowledge in this direction. The students invited here represent a bridge for building a green economy and, of course, we must assist young entrepreneurs and share our experience with them for the better future of the country.”
In the near future, considering the success and positive feedback, CENN plans to further expand and diversify the project, including taking it to a regional level. As such, the first consent phase organized by the School of Green Economics is underway in Akhmeta, where emphasis will be put on electricity and its generation through renewable energy sources. In the regions, local schools and students are expected to be involved in the project and take on important information, after which prospects for continued cooperation will be revealed.