People in Need has been helping in Georgia for 10 years.
Tbilisi (26 September 2016) People in Need (PiN) has been active in Georgia since 2006. In the 10 years it helped to set up tens of agricultural cooperatives that provide food and jobs to thousands of people. PiN showed the Ministry of Education and hundreds of schools how to use documentary films for teaching and provided local film makers with new skills to expand their own production.
What's more, PiN engaged thousands of people in decision making processes at the local level or assisted with the integration of socially isolated individuals back into society. Besides developmental cooperation where PiN actively integrates local ministries, towns, civil society and young people, the team also provided humanitarian assistance in the armed conflict in South Ossetia in 2008. Initially it was a limited program that grew into a permanent mission with 25 local and 3 foreign staff who together with other local partners manage various projects from the offices in Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Kazbegi.
In the last 10 years Georgia has experienced economic growth and now has a unique opportunity to work closely with the European Union and other international partners. “Our goal now is to assist Georgia so that the entire Georgian society benefits from this opportunity including the poor and disadvantaged. In the past the Czech Republic underwent a similar process so it's now in a position where it can share its experience” says Laurianne Gauny, head on the PiN mission in Georgia.
At the start of its work in Georgia PiN primarily focused on helping people in remote rural areas which included a large group of internally displaced persons as a result of armed or political conflicts. An extensive program was aimed at their integration, renewal of businesses and overall improvement of living conditions. This support gradually expanded to include programs aimed at social development. From 2006 PiN has been trying to show that the key to defeating poverty and social disparity is cooperation. “Cooperation between poor farmers as well as cooperation between various government bodies, civil society organisations and youth initiatives. All that significantly contributes to positive changes in society,” adds Lauriane Gauny. “All our activities are designed to make the people in need the main participants making the effort to improve their own lives and the state of the society where they live. With this in mind we have applied successful models from the Czech environment to engage local people, especially youth, on joint decision making,” she adds.
The reason behind the current success of PiN's programs in Georgia is first and foremost long-term and direct work of our colleagues on site with the people for whom the assistance is designed. “In practice that means extensive field work. Frequent visits to villages, schools, local authorities and of course listening to people and communicating with the locals, says Pavla Štefanová who headed the mission in Georgia in the years 2009 to 2015. “Initially the projects were small and it was not possible to involve many people. Therefore it was necessary to be able to select the most needy when looking to support those facing poverty, identify the most skilled when supporting businesses and the most active for working with the community. That proved to be a successful formula and we used that approach for larger programs as well,”she adds. Due to its good results PiN established itself in selected sectors and eventually could participate in solving problems on a national level.
People in Need in Georgia in numbers:
- over 300 youth initiatives aimed at active citizenship were supported by a financial grant
- approx. 3,000 people participated in decision making processes at the local level
- more than 30 local non-profit organisations have expanded their institutional capacity
- more than 30 social workers were trained using the new standards for field social work
- 32 agricultural cooperatives were established and trained in the Racha and Imereti regions
- 600 schools have started teaching according to the education methodology One World in Schools which was also approved by the Georgian Ministry of Education
- 4 social corporations and 15 companies that employ vulnerable individuals together provided direct assistance to 58 people and indirect to 1,500 people
- 2,000 internally displaced persons were able to resolve their life situation with the aid of a team of specially trained field workers
Rural Development and Farmer Support
From the beginning of its activities in Georgia PiN has focused on agricultural support as it is the main source of income for the Georgian people. Georgian farmers receive new skills and means in order to develop their sources of livelihood. “The main problem that we are encountering is land ownership,” says Buba Jafarli, head of PiN programs. “Approximately 760,000 families are involved in agriculture but most of them own only one hectare of agricultural soil or less. Lack of skills and means of production limit them to earn only a low income that they are then able invest in production. As a result these farms have a negligible chance of future development,” he adds. PiN is gradually overcoming historical aversion to cooperative farming and is motivating people to establish agricultural cooperatives. These in turn have higher quality production and also created more work opportunities.
This approach proved to be successful. “Two years ago I agreed with 4 other farmers in the area I have worked with in the past to join the project,” says Alexander Mshvildadze from the village of Obcha in western Georgia, who grows seedlings of grape vines. The farmers prepared a joint business plan, received training and a small tractor to help them work the land. “In the past it took me 14 days to manually plough the plot of land, now it takes me 4 hours. Last year we sold 7,000 seedlings and this year it was double,” Alexander Mshvildadze says proudly. This group of farmers have pooled their finances, bought more land and in the future they plan to offer their clients not only grape vine seedlings but also the construction of vineyards.
Civil Society Support
As part of the program aimed at the development of civil society and good governance PiN in Georgia focuses on supporting youth initiatives, local non-governmental organisations, businesses or associations in their effort to be able together with politicians to resolve current issues faced by the communities. “We succeeded in establishing working relationships with local governments and include communities in the decision making process which was considered very innovative in Georgia just a few years ago”, remembers Pavla Štefanová. Today people participate in the decision making on projects in their communities. “We pay particular attention to making sure especially young people are aware of their obligations and rights and knew how to enforce them. At the same time we support local authorities so that they offer their citizens the best service they can. We also assist local non-government organisations,“ explains Lauriane Gauny.
The Youth Club in Terjola in western Georgia has been operating for a year now. Local young people meet regularly and discuss the problems in their area that concern them the most. Together they have identified 12 items
they would like to change. The young people have met with the town representatives and community representatives and selected 4 priorities. “We really need a library here, sport facilities and free time activities. We also have a problem with the lack of waste bins or tourist information boards. However, that should change now,” say the representatives of the club at the meeting. Thanks to the contribution of PiN together with the local government they are able to implement specific solutions to these problems now.
Assistance to Socially Isolated People
Georgia is now also facing social problems. Two thirds of the poorest households, mainly in rural areas, do not have access to quality social services. Such problems are also faced by internally displaced persons, members of ethnic minorities and handicapped people. “We try to support coordination between the central government, local initiatives and authorities so that together they could establish working social services. Besides social consulting we also offer re-qualification courses or we support the establishment of social companies that create jobs for the socially disadvantaged. At the same time we use documentary films to abolish the myths held my the majority in society about socially disadvantaged people“, Lauriane Gauny explains.
Koba Nishnianidze, with the assistance of PiN, was able to open a bakery in Gelati in western Georgia. His business plan included 6 positions for the socially disadvantaged in the region. “Today we bake 1,500 loafs of bread and we employ 8 socially disadvantaged people. They are trained by our experienced bakers. Besides that we also offer baking courses”, he explains and adds that thanks to the experience in his bakery many people have improved their qualifications. Some have continued working in the bakery while others have found work elsewhere in the same industry. “Without the help of PiN I could not afford to build such a large bakery”, he adds and lists his plans to expand the business even further.
10 Years of Successful Projects
On the occasion of PiN's 10th anniversary of working in Georgia the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Tbilisi hosted an event in the second half of September attended among others by the Ambassador Tomáš Pernický and the Director of PiN Šimon Pánek. “One can see greater optimism in Georgia than in the countries of Central Europe. People there take liberty, independence and a certain level of lifestyle for granted, they do not appreciate it enough. Georgia experienced a great deal of hardship in the past so people are far more appreciative of what they now have”, Šimon Pánek said at the gathering in Tbilisi. “People from other countries should visit more often to understand how hard the Georgians had to work to get their country where it is today – to a point where the state serves the people, not the people the state”, he added.
The assistance of PiN in Georgia was made possible thanks to the generous support of donours and institutions. The assistance is ongoing mainly thanks to the support of the European Commission, World Bank, Czech Development Agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic. PiN also receives support from the Czech public through Klub přátel Člověka v tísni, Skutečný dárek and the Skutečná pomoc fundraiser. People in Need most sincerely thank everyone for their support.
For more information contact:
Lauriane Gauny, Head of PiN mission in Georgia, +995 591 800 575, email@example.com (currently in Tbilisi, time difference + 2 hours)
Šimon Pánek, Director of People in Need, +420 777 787 913, Simon.Panek@clovekvtisni.cz
Vladislav Vik, PiN assistance for Georgia, Armenia and Ukraine coordinator, +420 778 531 399 firstname.lastname@example.org