Georgian vegetable producers prove that kindness is contagious

A kind gesture by entrepreneur and food hero, Keti, helps other women through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Getting the idea to grow herbs from an FAO-EBRD-organized study tour, Keti (second from the right) now has extra income to not only get herself through these difficult times but also help other women in her community. ©FAO/Vladi Nikuradze

A valuable encounter at an FAO -organized study tour last year gave Keti Tomeishvili, a Georgian vegetable producer, the lucrative idea of growing culinary herbs alongside her cucumbers. This opportunity, coupled with high demand for herbs in neighbouring Russia, has really paid off. Now this extra income is not only helping Keti during these difficult times brought on by the pandemic, but she is also able to help other women in her community.

Keti hails from Imereti in western Georgia. She initially began her business in 2017 by growing cucumbers in greenhouses. In this part of Georgia, greenhouses don’t require much heating in winter, making them an affordable option to grow produce all year round. They provide protection from colder weather, while also reducing the need for chemical fertilizers. The result is good quality produce with a longer shelf-life.

Hard-working and energetic, Keti has invested in improving her business over the last couple of years – from drip irrigation to good quality seeds and better pest management.

In 2019, Keti travelled to Ukraine and the Netherlands with a small group of Georgian and Moldovan fruit and vegetable growers to see the latest in greenhouse production trends and technologies. The study tour, supported by the European Union’s EU4Business initiative, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Government of the Netherlands, was organized by FAO in cooperation with the Netherlands Enterprise Agency.

It was part of a larger FAO-EBRD initiative to help fruit and vegetable growers in Georgia, Moldova, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan modernize their operations to tap into more lucrative markets. The study tour gave Keti a chance to learn more from her peers and leaders in the greenhouse industry and make valuable business contacts – from input suppliers and wholesalers to innovative producers.

One such contact, also part of the group, was Goderdzi Shavgulidze, head of the Georgian herb cooperative Kvitiri, a big exporter of culinary herbs. At the time, Keti’s greenhouse business only produced cucumbers for the local market. But after meeting Goderdzi and seeking out his advice, she set aside a section within her 2 000 square metres of greenhouse space to grow coriander. The Kvitiri cooperative then helped her sell the herbs.

Her decision to diversify came at the right time. It opened up new markets and boosted her earnings, helping her to cope better with the pandemic’s economic shocks and putting her in a better position to support fellow workers in her community.

Source: Georgian vegetable producers prove that kindness is contagious | FAO Stories | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations


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