Sowing the seeds of an agrobiodiverse tourist experience in Georgia

Q&A with industry experts

We asked Mariam Jorjadze, Director of Elkana, a biological farming association, if she could talk to us about agrotourism in Georgia  from a smallholder producer perspective.

Q: How is agritourism in Georgia supporting rural development?

Agritourism is a source of increased employment and of pride particularly for young people in rural Georgia. It provides a space to market locally produced goods at better prices, including through value addition, while safeguarding local know-how on producing and preparing local products. Some farmers supply small-scale and traditional bakers, tourist sites and restaurants and some farms offer masterclasses on bread-baking and preparation of traditional dishes to tourists. The related publicity from the tourism industry raises the profile of rural Georgia as a tourist destination which in turn attracts more and more visitors and provides a platform to amplify messages about why local agrobiodiversity is important and how it can be conserved through sustainable use.

Q: Why is local agrobiodiversity important for farmers and food systems?

Building resilience into food systems includes spreading and reducing risks. One way to do this is by diversifying food systems to include endemic and traditional crops adapted to local conditions. Historically, in Georgia, fourteen species of wheat were cultivated here, five of which were endemic. We also have many aboriginal varieties of pulses. Over millennia, Georgian farmers have developed numerous landraces of wheat and pulses many of which today exist only in genebank collections and scientific research centres. Now there is a lot of interest in bringing them back to farms, markets, and diets as they are often adapted to local soil-climatic conditions, and do not need a lot of water, or inputs like fertilizers and pesticides. Many are also rich in nutrients and have exceptional gastronomic qualities which tourists appreciate so it’s a win-win.

Q: What are the advantages and challenges for farmers of being part of a farmers’ association in terms of working with the private sector?

Smallholder producers don’t always have the capacity to consistently deliver on industry requirements such as food safety and quality standards, certification and labelling, and traceability.  Farmers’ associations can help them with technical support and training in these areas. At Elkana, we give members who successfully go through annual certification, our own quality standards label for their produce. The farmers are also able to connect and exchange knowledge.

Q: Where is more investment needed to support smallholders in producing traditional products?

In addition to the support mentioned above, it is critical to build smallholder capacity in business and marketing skills, for example, in collective purchasing and in investing in supportive infrastructure such as logistics platforms that ease product aggregation, processing, labelling and distribution. At the production level, it is also critical to implement Good Agricultural Practices to build resilience into food systems particularly against climate change, supported by access to insurance and finance packages in the case that they lose crops which can devastate their income.


Find out more about Elkana

Find out more about how the EBRD and FAO are working with partners in Georgia to strengthen its agritourism industry and create more jobs in rural areas, protect livelihoods and culinary traditions, and preserve local biodiversity:  Putting Georgia’s Traditional Foods on the Culinary Roadmap – Agtivate


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