On 24 and 25 November, the Georgian association Ertoba organised its General Assembly in Akhaltsikhe. Here is a review of this event.

Ertoba, a young association

Evolution of Ertoba members

Ertoba (which means “Unity” in Georgian) is a farmers’ association created in 2015 on the initiative of 11 dairy farmers from the Samtskhe Javakheti region.

Our association was created by 11 farmers who initially met informally to talk about their problems. With the help of Fert and GBDC, we had the opportunity to travel to France in 2014, and it was on our return that we wanted to create the association to make it formal. It was unique for Georgia, we didn’t know if this kind of farmers’ associations already existed in our country“.

Indeed, since the end of the Soviet era, Georgian farmers have been reluctant to group together, tested by the experience of the kolkhozes.

Since then, Ertoba has strengthened itself by carrying out various projects. It has initiated discussions with the State to facilitate access to brucellosis vaccines, the allocation of “helping hand” subsidies for the acquisition of equipment for groups of farmers, the setting up of veterinary services and, more recently, a grouped input supply service. All of these services have helped to attract new members, and by 2022 there were 137 members.

Time for renewal

In order to renew the original board and integrate new voices, Ertoba organized its first elective general assembly on 24 November 2022. While the primary objective was to bring together all the members to share the results and reflect on the future of the association, this GA also aimed to elect 4 new members to the board (out of 12 places). Preparatory work in committee had enabled the identification of six farmer candidates and to accompany them to campaign in their villages. Each of the 6 candidates had prepared a profession of faith in which he/she shared his/her understanding of the purpose of the association, the way to develop the activities and the responsibility he/she wished to take.

New challenges

During the general assembly, several subjects were discussed by the 80 farmers and the twenty or so local partners present.

  • Firstly, on milk production: farmers are aware of the need to increase forage production on their farms. Various technical and organisational levers were identified to disseminate simple practices already tried and tested by some.
  • Then, on cheese production: farmers agreed on the importance of stabilising and regulating the quality of their milk, to better promote and valorise their cheeses in relation to their territory.
  • Finally, on the installation and training of young people: today, the profession of farmer is not recognised according to a level of competence, but only depends on a title of ownership. The members of Ertoba wish to promote training as a necessary prerequisite for any agricultural project.

To meet all these challenges, farmers need Ertoba to group together, make their voices heard and join forces with partners to carry out concrete actions. The general assembly has allowed us to share these concerns and confirm the strength of this group. Let’s hope that 2023 will bring progress on these challenges!

Georgian farmers speak out

“The collective, the group is very precious. When you arrive with questions and problems, they always try to answer, to give solutions. You learn a lot from others.”

“When you are on your own and you only believe in your own ideas, when you don’t want to learn anything new, you always stay at the same stage. With Ertoba, when farmers get together, they share their results, they support each other, they give each other advice.”

“Being elected means being responsible: I am not there just for myself. If I take this responsibility, I must always be on the lookout, ask and follow what is going on, learn and then share with others.”