Experience gained through Cochran Programme successfully applied by RDFG in Georgia

Vano Grigolashvili, chairman of Association Rural Development for Future Georgia (RDFG), was selected by USDA to participate in 2012 Cochran program for Greenhouse Farming. RDFG is a non-profit association, working on cross-cutting issues such as economic empowerment, human rights, environmental protection, gender equality, peace building and disaster risk reduction. The organization works with different vulnerable societal groups, including conflict affected communities of the rural areas, to support their social and economical development and strengthen their self resilience to natural hazards. Recognizing agriculture as a main driver of rural economy RDFG promotes modern agricultural technologies among local farmers through associations’ Farmers Fields Schools’ vocational trainings and economic development activities. All farms, established by RDFG in partnership with local farmers, serve as demonstration plots to show the advantage of modern agricultural production technologies and promote cooperation among farmers. RDFG has special focus on children and youth. RDFG Young Farmers’ Centers bring together school children from rural communities in the effort to demonstrate the benefits of modern agriculture as a source of livelihood security in their local communities and an alternative to migration to urban areas.

As mentioned in the framework of RDFG’s economical development activities association introduces modern agricultural technologies in different spheres and one of the main pillars is to promote greenhouse farming as a prospective livelihood opportunity for Georgian farmers. Georgia has favorable natural conditions to have promising opportunities in offseason vegetable production, but there are few challenges that impede greenhouse farming development in Georgia. Up to now RDFG constructed eight demonstration greenhouses where RDFG beneficiaries have the opportunity to learn modern technologies in this field of agriculture. Accordingly RDFG is interested to research new approaches and practices in greenhouse farming applied in countries with advanced agricultural sector such as US. Following this approach, RDFG used the opportunity provided by Cochran Programme to visit and learn from US farmers involved in greenhouse farming. The programme gave RDFG representative Vano Grigolashvili opportunity to spent 14 days in Missouri meeting with local farmers, greenhouse business suppliers, extension service and scientific circles representatives. The information on the technologies captured during this exchange visit helped RDFG to replicate some innovations in greenhouse management and production techniques in their field work in Georgia, as well as included gained knowledge in RDFG educational programme. Another positive result of this visit was that mentioned program brought together representatives of Georgian governmental structures and local businesses that gave the start of new fruitful partnership within RDFG’s activities.