–October 20, Tbilisi, Georgia – GEF, MEPA, UNEP, and RECC Join Forces to Uncover the Value of Conservation and Sustainable Use of Endemic Vine and Wheat Varieties in the Samtskhe-Javakheti Region of Georgia
65 stakeholders gathered at the National Wine Agency of Georgia for the inception workshop for the project „Sustainable Management of Agricultural Biodiversity in Vulnerable Ecosystems and Rural Communities of Samtskhe-Javakheti Region in Georgia”. Initiated by the MEPA and financed by the Global Environmental Facility, the 4-year (2022-2026) project aims to mainstream agro-biodiversity conservation into the agriculture sector of the Samtskhe-Javakheti Region of Georgia. The project is implemented by the United Nations Environmental Programme with the support of the Regional Environmental Center for the South Caucasus.
The workshop welcomed stakeholders from various backgrounds, focusing on governmental bodies and agencies, international organizations, private and civic sectors. The innovative approach to the conservation and mainstreaming of ancient wine and wheat varieties garnered the support of all in attendance.
Welcome remarks were delivered by Mr. Otar Shamugia, the Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia, who remarked on the utmost importance of preserving the endemic varieties, noting that “Georgia is rich with unique agrobiodiversity, and all of us are tasked with conserving it, and this project serves exactly this goal, preserving the agricultural biodiversity, which will support the increase in the livelihoods of people residing in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region”. He further noted that “the partners and the donor GEF, UNEP and the REC Caucasus, as well as the Agricultural Research Center – play a crucial role in the development of the sector and spreading the rare varieties of Georgian vine”.
“There have been important steps taken towards the protection of the agricultural biodiversity in the country and it is important to keep the momentum going with such initiatives” noted Mr. Iuri Nozadze, the Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture.
“The solution for solving the issues facing both biodiversity and agriculture in Georgia is in the hands of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, as it can fuse together both issues and find a way to address them”, remarked Mr. Ersin Essen, GEF Task Manager, UN Environment Programme.
The goals and aims were presented by Ms. Sophiko Akhobadze, the Executive Director of REC Caucasus, focusing on the steps that need to be taken in order to ensure the sustainable management of agricultural biodiversity in Samtskhe-Javakheti. It was noted that the project team has already taken action to collaborate with the Agricultural Research Center and local farmers who have invaluable experience in the restoration of the local vine and wheat varieties.
The challenges associated with the implementation of a project this scale and the success stories were the main focus of the discussion. The project team received feedback from the attending parties, who voiced their unwavering support for the cause.