Adjaristsqali Georgia is developing the Shuakhevi HPP in the highlands of Adjara. One of the company’s priorities is promoting regional development.
To accomplish this aim, AGL has chosen three directions for its social responsibility efforts: education and awareness raising, community empowerment, and infrastructure projects. Choosing these directions was done based on a combination of social and economic research which the company conducted, development priorities of local governments, and daily meetings with local residents.
The development and implementation of social projects is guided by Zviad Diasamidze, the director of land and social affairs at AGL.
Mr. Diasamidze, are the social projects implemented by Adjaristsqali Georgia an obligatory part of the project or are they voluntary?
It should be noted from the very beginning that any project implemented in the field of social responsibility is a voluntary activity by that company. Social responsibility has been a part of western business culture for a long time. The modern business world has realized that for successful growth an organization must not only support its own growth but also support concerned groups surrounding that organization. This important part of western business culture has also become part of current Georgian private business culture. Steps have already been taken in this direction and the tendency is growing. Adjaristsqali Georgia, LLC tries to be one of the most successful companies in the region from a social responsibility standpoint, and we wish to be leaders of the field in the highlands of Adjara.
Let’s speak more specifically about those projects that are currently running. What kind of projects are planned in the education field?
First of all I would like to note that education is one of the most important priorities for Adjaristsqali Georgia, LLC. Our company tries to implement educational projects that support the growth of education for the next generation of Adjaran highlanders. This is why we established a scholarship program, which we implemented with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara. Eight local students from Khulo and Shuakhevi districts were chosen based on an application process. The program which we funded covers expenses for the entire period of undergraduate studies.
Recently, we also implemented an educational project for English teachers. This project aims to improve teachers’ knowledge of English and to enhance their professional skills. Over 40 English teachers from the Khulo and Shuakhevi districts took part in the project. We also held English-only after-school activities for gifted and talented students to develop their English and critical thinking skills in an informal atmosphere and held an essay competition in which 44 local students participated. Finally, Adjaristsqali Georgia, LLC is beginning a student internship program in August in cooperation with Tbilisi State Technical University. Three students were chosen to take part in an internship for two months at Shuakhevi HPP and work alongside Georgian and foreign specialists. I hope that these young people will go on to join the professional team of the future hydropower plant and will be involved in the process of development of their own regions. Our company is planning to perform such internship programs in the future as well.
Let’s focus on infrastructure projects. What kind of projects do you implement?
Infrastructure projects are an important part of regional development. We have quite a long list of infrastructure projects which we are implementing in cooperation with local municipal governments. These projects include building road infrastructure, improving drainage systems, and providing local communities with permanent water supplies. This is just a short list of the projects which are currently in progress or which have already been implemented. We are also improving school facilities. For example, we have built sports fields, improved school yards, and refurbished libraries. As I have already mentioned, the company, government authorities, and the local population are jointly involved in this process. All of our projects are directed by current needs. The rehabilitation of the Vashlovani school yard has been recently finished. We are currently performing a large scale water rehabilitation project in Makhalakidzeebi village and starting another in Akhaldaba together with the regional government. It is noteworthy that when implementing infrastructure projects we try to employ local residents and give them an opportunity to contribute to the development of village infrastructure. In 2015 alone, up to 150 local residents were periodically employed in our infrastructure projects.
Representatives of your company often talk about the need for developing and reinforcing the local community. What kind of activities do you perform in this respect?
Empowering communities is one of the most important issues for the development of highland Adjara and consequently is a key direction for our company. We have recently started a project of funding startup businesses by awarding grants and promoting household businesses. This project includes training in both practical and theoretical aspects of running a business.
We have also launched a beekeeping project in the Khulo and Shuakhevi municipalities. The aim of this project is to improve and restore the livelihoods of affected farmers to pre-project level. Farmers are trained in new trends and modern technologies of beekeeping to acquire the skills for setting up beekeeping enterprises. Apart from training, participants are provided with bee families, beehives, and any other necessary equipment.
I would also like to ask how you communicate with the local population.
First, from moment we began our project, we set up information centers in order to conduct direct and effective dialogue with the local population. The main function of the information centers in Khulo and Shuakhevi is to inform these communities about the development of the project as well as different social projects that we conduct. With the help of these centers we have daily, close connection to local people; quite a few meetings are held here on a daily basis.
Permanent communication with the local population, listening to them, and determining preferences together – all of these support important points of regional development and are part of Adjaristsqali Georgia, LLC’s daily work. I believe we can play an important part in the long term development of the Adjaran highlands.