In Georgia, Fert has been working since 2011 with dairy farmers in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region, a mid-mountain region in the South Caucasus. With the support of a local team of technicians (the GBDC), the dairy farmers seek to improve their dairy practices for greater productivity and better milk quality. Such changes are being made while respecting traditional practices, such as summer pastures.

Every year, it’s the same old story; at the end of spring, when the grass is too sparse around the villages, the farmers prepare to leave for 4 or 5 months in the mountain pastures: throughout the summer, they will spend their days at an altitude of more than 2000 metres, where the grass is still green. During the whole summer, men, women and children will stay in their huts, without electricity, in the middle of the mountain, to look after their cattle.

For the farmers, as for the animals, this departure to the mountain pastures is a celebration!

So much so that – on the day of departure – some still perpetuate a tradition of putting make-up on and dressing the animals with colourful accessories. This is what took place in Derzeli on 8 June. When asked what this tradition means, the locals do not remember the origin, but for them today it is a way of celebrating the arrival of summer.

Beyond the folklore linked to the departure to the mountains, this transhumance implies for the farmers a whole logistics: milk processing on the spot, accommodation for the family and the shepherds, shelter for the cattle and access to water… Fert and GBDC help the farmers to improve their working conditions in the mountains :

  • in 2014, Fert supported the construction of a watering system to allow the installation of water points in the mountain pastures around the village of Rustavi > read more
  • this year, 65 families from the village of Iveria have joined together to build an enclosed shelter for their herds, in particular to protect them from the wild predators that have been raging in this area for several years (bears, wolves, etc.) and from the occasional bad weather (rain, hail, snow and strong winds). With the help of the GBDC technician and the advice of the Ertoba Breeders’ Committee, the farmers imagined the design of a 250 m² enclosure, 150 m² of which would be covered. Such a shelter costs around €4,000; the farmers finance more than half of the cost and build it themselves. The building is currently under construction and should make it possible from this summer to protect nearly 150 cows and reassure the producers!