Following our visit to Samtaskaro, as described in the previous article, we drove to the village Heretiskari located in the Lagodekhi district. Similarly to the Samtatskaro village, the villagers residing in Heretiskari were provided with similar grant opportunities from the Civil Development Agency (CiDA).
Heretiskari harbors 130 families. In comparison to Samtatskaro, the villagers do not experience any serious challenges. In fact, the village contains numerous greenhouses. However, like Samtatskaro, the village lacks a functioning heating system. This requires them to revert to the old-fashioned way of keeping warm- firewood. “Thank god there are no major problems except for heating for which we still use firewood,” one of the villagers commented.
Raspberry and Green plum Cultivation
Valerian Abashidze is an eco-migrant from Adjara who moved to Heretiskari in 1989. Like the other eco-migrants, his wife had participated in receiving the grant offer from CiDA. Pondering over a business idea, she visited nearby villages to learn about raspberry cultivation. As Heretiskari had never farmed raspberries, she took advantage of the gap in the market. Additionally, she decided to grow green plums. With this, she produced her business plan that had triumphed and gifted her with a grant from CiDA. Currently, they farm cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, and wheat- all of which they sell locally. Soon, they plan to divide their 1600 square meter land equally for growing raspberries and green plums. The green plums will be transported and sold in the Tbilisi markets. However, they are unsure about the market for the raspberries.
Our next stop was at the local felt workshop. Rusudan Dumbadze transformed her basement into a felt workshop after qualifying for the grant. CiDA purchased her sewing machines, iron, camera, and computer for her online store. Learning the basics from her mother-in-law, Dumbadze developed her skills independently. Currently, she purchases the felt from Tbilisi to produce felt shoes, jackets, hats, scarves and “everything else that can be worn”. Alongside her, she employs her daughter-in-law and her parents. The finished goods are transported and sold in the Tbilisi markets which earn her a good income. Moreover, she added, “this project is very important to me. It allows me to convey my knowledge to other people and to psychologically relax and recharge.”
Honey Bee Farm
Our final stop was at honey bee farm. After a several minute drive, the minivan came to a stop and we tumbled out onto the farmland. A mammoth wagon loaded with numerous crates was the first thing to grab our attention. By the wagon stood a woman to whom we rushed and swarmed with our voice recorders ready. Leila Beridze is an Eco-migrant from Adjara who had moved to Heretiskari since 1989. As we spoke, she revealed that before the grant by CiDA, she only had 3 bee colonies producing honey. Moreover, her neighbors’ continuous use of pesticides had infected her bees.
Therefore, lacking the suitable transportation to move the bees to safer environments, they began dying. However, after qualifying for a grant from CiDA, she was provided with 2 bee colonies and 13 bee houses. Additionally, the large wagon towering over the field was also provided by CiDA to aid Beridze in transporting the bee colonies when necessary. Currently, her workforce consists of three employees- all of which are her relatives. Beridze transports and sells the honey in Bodbe, a village in Kakheti.
“Wish there was a government like these non-government organizations,” Beridze exclaimed repeatedly as we began packing our equipment and trudged toward the minivan.
After a refreshing lunch at a hotel buried within the hovering autumn trees of Lagodekhi, we began driving back to Tbilisi. Initially, the ride was joyful. But as the sun began fading behind the horizon, drowsiness loomed over the minivan. Soon enough, we arrived in Tbilisi, said our goodbyes and returned home with wonderful memories of the things we had seen and the people we had met.