Have you heard about the strawberry greenhouse where men and women are equally engaged in strawberry farming and their united efforts lead to the success? We would like to present a cooperative of Georgian farmers from Samegrelo, Senaki, village Meore Nosiri in our new photo project. Meet the agri cooperative “DK-Qolga” and get the grassroots information on how ENPARD and its partners work throughout Georgia.
Members of the “DK-Qolga” are working together from 2011 as a group of 5 relatives who have decided to establish a greenhouse business. Initially they have started with 1700 m2 of land as a greenhouse of vegetables, greens and flowers. Later on, in 2013 they started with strawberry greenhouse on 300 m2 land and 1200 young strawberry plants.
“DK-Qolga” went through the registration as an official cooperative in July 2014 with the head of the cooperative David Kuchukhidze and his colleagues Darejan Kokaia, Lamzira Barkalaia, Iamze Tsotsonava and Ramaz Kuchuxidze.
This year, the members of cooperatives decided to expand strawberry production. For this reason they have seized the opportunity offered by ENPARD and its regional partner CARE. “DK-Qolga” has presented their business plan on establishment of 2 additional greenhouses on the 2500 m2 of land in Meore Nosiri, Noqalaqevi, for which they needed modern technical equipment of irrigation, spraying, heating, ventilation installation and 300m2 refrigeration equipment as well as 20,000 young plant strawberries of “San Andreas” plants. It should be mentioned that “DK-Qolga” has its own transportation means.
In the framework of ENPARD grant programme the cooperative has been assisted with the purchase of all technical equipment as well as 20, 000 “San Andreas” young plants. Within the grant CARE has provided the technical assistance of 86,428 GEL, whereas the contribution of the cooperative in the purchase process amounted to 31,000 GEL. It should be mentioned that all technical equipment has been delivered to the cooperative premises for now. The implementation of the project started in December of 2014.
David Kuchukhidze, the head of the agri cooperative “DK-Qolga” answers our question on his experience with ENPARD programme and more:
– Mr. Kuchukhidze how long have you been involved in agricultural field and when have you decided to register a cooperative?
-I have been involved in the filed for long but there were no such unions as cooperatives before. We have heard about this opportunity from ENPARD programme. Before that we did not consider registration of cooperative, but when we got detailed information on cooperatives, we liked the idea. Later we have expressed our interest to establish a cooperative and have attended an informational meeting organized by the agri cooperative development agency. After this meeting we have decided to establish a cooperative due to the benefits the union offers.
– In your opinion, what is the most important advantage of a cooperative?
– The main advantage of the cooperative is that we make decisions together. There are 5 members in our cooperative and all decisions are made after intensive consultations. For example, it was a difficult process to agree on expanding a strawberry greenhouse. We made calculations, have discussed all pros and cons as well as risks and have come up with the unified decision. Cooperative helps us to learn more, we get not only information from ENPARD and its partner here, but we get real assistance. For example they guided us through the process on berry farming as well as with networking with other cooperatives. We have training and often meet the members of other cooperatives during agri fairs and introductory meetings, where in a warm and welcoming environment we share mutually beneficial information. Meetings with the representatives of supermarket chains and hotels were very important; It will help us a lot in future. We feel a great support from ENPARD and its partners.
– How is the workload distributed among your cooperative members?
All of us participate in cooperative equally physically as well as in all other terms. I have to highlight that women work amazingly in our cooperative and their contribution is not less than of any male members if not more.
-Do you face problems in sales?
Right now we do not face any problems in sales as we have 2-3 places where they regularly accept our production, but as we want to expand our business further we are looking for new markets when it comes to sales. The best thing about the project we implemented with the help of ENPARD is that “San Andreas” strawberry plants will provide us with fruits all year around thus we will be able to have more stability in our business when it comes to sales.
– What is your advice for those who want to be actively engaged in agricultural sector in Georgia?
I am constantly in a work process. There are many people approaching me who are interested in hard work and development, who really love their work and I try to help everyone with my advice and share my experience. There are some who are only interested in financial profit and I have difficulty dealing with this kind of people as I know for sure that in order to achieve a success in this field you have to love your land and farm.
In my opinion, Georgian farmers should take over Georgian market, we should not be import driven country. To achieve this aim we need more cooperatives. When we will be strong enough on Georgian market we can think of export to the European countries. In the meantime we should get a good grasp of laws and regulations in the EU to be present on their market one day.