When Dali Veshaguridze, a school accountant, decided to found a gardening cooperative, her family was sceptical. “They would say, ‘Who will give you a grant, a big sum of €49,000?’”
The answer was the EU’s ENPARD programme. Dali learned about the programme in 2015 and when she and four other teachers from her school founded the cooperative named Nergebi in Zemo Alvani, the Kakheti Region, they obtained a grant from ENPARD.
“After the school classes were over, we would return home and care for our families. Then, by nine o’clock in the evening, we would gather together and keep developing the project until the next morning,” Dali shares. “By the end of 2015, we had already been able to construct a greenhouse. In the first year we learned a lot, participated in various training sessions held in Georgia and became acquainted with people like us in Europe. We were trained in accounting, agronomy, advocacy, marketing and writing business projects.”
“We liked very much the principle of cooperation,” Dali says. “If one person was undertaking this work, they would have incurred much more expenditure than five people together. We live in a village, have children and grandchildren, and produce clean products.”
In the first year, the cooperative only grew cucumbers and tomatoes. Now its members produce up to 6 tonnes per season and sell them at the local market, in neighbouring villages and downtown.
Despite the fact that they had started the gardening business, members of the cooperative continued to work at the school. Some of them have up to 20 years of work experience.
They say that today their lives are more interesting and the work they do on the ground serves as a kind of therapy. “Taking care of plants is just as an agreeable process as taking care of family members,” Dali concludes.
Author Gvantsa Nemsadze
This article was produced in the framework of the ‘EU NEIGHBOURS east’ project. The views expressed are solely those of the author of the article.