Up to 200 representatives of regional and local authorities from 10 regions of Georgia attended interactive workshops on rural development, initiated by the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture and the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia, with assistance from the European Union (EU) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
One of the final events of this awareness raising campaign took place in Mtskheta on April 3, 2018, with up to 20 local self-government representatives taking part. "Georgia's rural economies are full of potential for innovation and growth. Local discussions on the National Rural Development Strategy and Action Plan can explore the key areas of opportunity and focus on the drivers of change," – said Nodar Kereselidze, First Deputy Minister of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia.
With the technical support from the Policy and Management Consulting Group (PMCG), the workshops aimed to promote rural development policy of Georgia and build the capacity of local officials for its implementation. An estimated 170 high-level local public servants from 64 municipalities of Mtskheta-Mtianeti, Kvemo Kartli, Shida Kartli, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Kakheti, Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti, Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti, Guria and the Autonomous Republic of Ajara took part in this initiative.
"Rural development is a complex transformational effort which requires the active involvement of regional and local authorities whose decisions are closest to people and their needs," – said Kakhaber Guledani, Deputy Minister of Regional Development and infrastructure of Georgia.
The participants of the workshops discussed strategic approaches to sustainable rural development as an effective instrument to promote growth and diversification of local economies, improvement of social and public services, sustainable management of natural resources, climate action, and citizen engagement. They also focused on Georgia's progress in introducing and implementing the national rural development concept, practical experience of the European countries in this field, and the ways to adapt it to local realities.
Representatives of the regional and local authorities stressed that rural development if backed by the sound policies and active citizens, can successfully counter economic and social challenges, faced by the disadvantaged rural regions of Georgia. They also agreed that LEADER is an effective European model of citizen engagement and requested more information about the pilot projects supported by the EU in eight municipalities of Georgia. The workshops were facilitated by representatives of the Georgian Government and invited independent experts.
The EU, in partnership with UNDP, will continue assisting regional and local authorities in their efforts to take part in shaping rural development policies at the local level and promote underlying mechanisms of citizen engagement. The implementation of the National Rural Development Strategy and Action Plan is supported by the European Union (EU) through the wider EU-funded programme, ENPARD.
Aiming to reduce rural poverty in Georgia, ENPARD has been implemented since 2013, with the total budget of EUR 179.5 million. Its first phase focused on developing the national agriculture potential, while the second and third phase focuses on creating economic opportunities for the rural population that go beyond agricultural activities.