This project is designed to empower and create a framework for local people to catalyze smart, sustainable economic growth. It applies lessons learned and best practices from the Visegrad (V4) countries (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland) to Georgia’s Tetritskaro Municipality.
Tetritskaro is a large municipality in southeastern Georgia. Its unique natural beauty is threatened by climate change, natural disasters, and rural-urban migration leading to neglect of the local infrastructure and economy. Tetritskaro has the highest number of cultural heritage monuments per km2 of any municipality in Georgia and is located a mere 60 km from the capital, yet few are familiar with the territory.
Unfortunately, its people have been left behind by Georgia’s recent robust economic growth. The unemployment rate is 33% in the municipality’s administrative center. Less than half of one percent of the population is employed in hotels or restaurants, reflecting the low level of development of the tourism industry. The public sector is a primary source of local employment. Others commute long distances to other cities for work. Economic productivity is low, led by agriculture. Of those involved in agriculture, nearly 60% breed cattle – a resource intensive industry severely threatened by climate change and related changes in human consumption patterns. Tetritskaro’s cultural heritage, natural landscapes, and easy accessibility from Tbilisi leave it well positioned for stable and sustainable development, carried by competitive economic growth based on modern education, research, and innovation.
The Georgian tourism industry is booming, and through investments in key infrastructure, including skills trainings and nature preservation, domestic and international visitors can help breathe life back into the communities here. A bright spot in Tetritskaro is its breathtaking natural beauty, including Algeti National Park. There are several national grant, loan, and business development opportunities available to motivated entrepreneurs in various sectors, including tourism and agriculture, offered by both government agencies and international organizations. This project will focus on training residents on how to take advantage of existing opportunities and offer targeted financial resources for selected applicants. With more education and training, community members can take advantage of opportunities to improve their conditions, lifting their whole community up with them. The European Union, USAID, and other international donors have also committed to empowering and developing rural Georgia, recognizing rural-urban migration, ecological migration, climate change, and low regional economic productivity as major threats to the nation.
This project improves the development framework by supporting the Local Action Group to write an Action Plan on Utilizing the Confluence of Economy and Environment in Tetritskaro Municipality. The goal of the project is to lift the conditions of the people of Tetritskaro using examples of V4 countries’ experiences of utilizing nature conservation to increase economic benefits from sustainable agriculture and tourism.
To support sustainable economic growth, local people need to see examples of success stories and will benefit from guidance and inspiration from local experts. V4 countries, having also experienced a historic period of communist rule, can share relevant experience on how to preserve and harness natural resources to improve local economies, through tourism and agriculture. Tetritskaro and its citizens will greatly benefit from these insights. Visegrad citizens will also benefit from the project activities, information on which will be shared by project partners, as organizations and individuals connect with innovators, entrepreneurs, and passionate young activists from Georgia.
This project is tied to and complements the existing project – Rural Development for Sustainable Growth in the Tetritskaro Municipality, funded by the European Union within the ENPARD programme.
The Nature Conservation Forum, Ochrany Prirody, is one of the stand-out organizations for environmental and social development in the Czech Republic. They provide a space for dialogue, transfer of knowledge and search for solutions in activities in nature conservation. They have extensive experience in environmental protection and small project design/implementation. Within this project, Ochrany Prirody will provide virtual and in-person technical assistance to sub-grant recipients, applying knowledge of best practices from the Visegrad region, and ensuring the projects’ sustainability and impact.
Cz&K Consulting Ltd., based in Hungary, have rich and valuable experience in rural development, and applying tourism as a mechanism for sustainable economic growth, in particular. Their expertise is in designing and delivering trainings and ToTs and developing educational materials for conservation, environmental and sustainability issues, with an emphasis on sustainable economic farming and tourism practices. They have worked in high mountain areas in central and western Europe, and will be able to bring that knowledge and experience to Georgia, designing training materials and conducting ToTs on curriculum aimed at members of Young Farmers’ Centers, encouraging farmer-entrepreneurs and innovative, climate-smart agriculture, and at adults in training or retraining through TVET institutions.
The Ekopolis Foundation is one of most recognized environmental NGOs in Slovakia. Ekopolis works in partnership with local communities, public administrations, and environmentally responsible companies to deliver practical change influencing local peoples’ livelihoods, raising awareness about the impact of human activities on the environment, and increasing public interest in decision making. The main tool used by the foundation is tailormade grant programming, adding value by providing training and consultations. The foundation started its operation in the early 90’s after the democratic changes in the region. During its 26-year history the foundation has supported more than 3000 projects with a total value of 19.5 mln EUR. Within the project V4 Rural Development Experience for Sustainable Growth, Ekopolis will deliver a 2-day “Project Design Training” for local grant applicants.