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The response of the Georgian Farmers’ Association’s to the crisis caused by Coronavirus

My grandfather used to say that once in your life you need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, and a preacher but every day, three times a day, you need a farmer” – Brenda Schoepp (2012),
Canadian Farmer, Author, Mentor, Inspirational Speaker

Authors: Tekla Gurgenidze, Rati Kochlamazashvili.

The global challenge, that is Covid-19, has engulfed and united the entire world in the battle against it. Both developed and developing countries are now facing a common problem as there is a threat to the most basic human right – the right to life (the most basic right, John Locke) and health.

In the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic, agriculture is one of the priority sectors, after the health-care sector, not only in Georgia but also in many countries of the world. Today, the role of farmers around the world has grown even bigger, as the farmers are the creators of the significant wealth on which depends food security – the availability of sufficient food to feed the country’s population.

According to the theory of the “hierarchical pyramid of needs” of the famous American philosopher Abraham Harold Maslow, the personal development of a person begins with the satisfaction of basic needs. The Maslow Pyramid is five-staged, and the philosopher calls the first two stages the basic, most important needs, while the remaining needs are acquired in nature. In the first stage of the hierarchical pyramid, Maslow identifies physiological needs, such as hunger and thirst (Maslow, 1943). This theory once again confirms the fact that when there is a danger – and this danger is now called Coronavirus – that a person will not be able to satisfy his/her basic needs, everything else becomes secondary at such a time. In this battle, farmers are at the forefront; they must feed thousands and, consequently, provide for their lives.

To help farmers and agriculture in general, a number of new initiatives, portals, and websites have been created around the world – with the information accumulated on these types of platforms, farmers have the opportunity to receive the necessary information in a prompt manner. As a rule, operational and reliable information often plays a crucial role in crisis management. Besides, it is important to eliminate any kind of problem (movement, product selling, etc.) that farmers are facing in a timely manner.

Along with governments, farmers’ associations have a special role to play in addressing these challenges. The Georgian Farmers’ Association is not lagging behind in these processes and is taking a number of measures in response to the crisis caused by the Coronavirus:

  • GFA conducted a study to timely assess the main challenges faced by Georgian farmers. The analysis shows the vulnerability of the Georgian food sector, as well as the main problems of farms, which have become even more severe against the background of C The study also contains specific recommendations on what the state should do during the crisis and in the post-crisis period, to develop agriculture and improve food security in the country. As a result, several key recommendations made by GFA in terms of rural and agricultural support were taken into account in the anti-crisis plan of the Georgian government.
  • GFA published Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) that addressed the key questions that worried the farmers most.
  • GFA, as an umbrella association uniting many sectoral associations, developeda joint statement to the Government of Georgia with regards to easing/softening or abolishing the restrictions on movement for farmers. As a result, by the decision of the Georgian government, restrictions on movement were lifted, and local self-government officials began to issue permits to farmers at a fast pace so that they can carry out agricultural works without hindrance. Also, the Georgian Farmers’ Association, with the help of a Business Ombudsman, has helped many farmers to obtain movement permits on time.
  • Since the sale of products has become one of the most pressing issues because of the current crisis, GFA, on the one hand, has begun negotiations with distribution companies and retail chains, and on the other hand, started using a special online questionnaire to collect data on all key farmers (see the link to the Questionnaire). This process continues, and to date, up to 100 farmers have been identified, and the data has been transferred to distribution companies and sales chains that are willing to purchase the farmers’ products.
  • GFA organizes and participates in various webinars to provide farmers with important and necessary information remotely.
  • Nino Zambakhidze, a Chairperson of GFA, together with her friends, on March 16, even before the state of emergency was announced, established a platform “Ertianoba” („ერთიანობა“,)the purpose of which is to support the most vulnerable population of Georgia – mainly through the provision of free food, medicines, and other basic household items. The team of GFA, as well as its partner online store, are actively participating in this aid campaign and supplying the most vulnerable groups with products produced by Georgian farmers. As a result, as of May 4, 1200 volunteers have been mobilized across the country and aid has been provided to 2780 people;

In addition, GFA publishes blogs on the crisis caused by the Coronavirus pandemic to provide even more information to farmers and all parties interested in Georgian agriculture. All these measures help farmers and ensure an uninterrupted supply of food to the entire population of the country.