New perspectives and opportunities for development
In 2012, a project was launched in the Georgian village of Argokhi which – under the guidance of the EthicFinance Association – was intended to teach young people how to develop personal initiative and think in a more entrepreneurial way. By means of a training course which taught both the theoretical and practical aspects of the cultivation of herbs, the young people – and subsequently other villagers – learned about the benefits of cooperation and strategy, as well as sustainable production in biodynamic agriculture.
The Georgian village of Argokhi in the Kakheti Region has had to suffer many setbacks in recent decades. The war and the political situation resulted in serious economic difficulties among the population. The young people in particular were affected by the resulting lack of prospects. For this reason, the EthicFinance Association decided to help the village in 2012. The original plan was to provide the young people with theoretical and practical training in the cultivation of various herbs. Interested villagers also participated in the programme afterwards. The harvest was subsequently processed and sold. In this way the participants were provided with an insight into the underlying principles of entrepreneurial thinking, various technical skills and a sense of what can be achieved when working together.
From the very start it was clear that the village was in need of a sustainable stimulus in order to have a positive influence on the young people living there. The cultivation of biodynamic herbs such as marigolds or basil, plants which have actually been grown there for centuries, but which had been forgotten during the Soviet era, appeared to be the ideal solution. The soil was good and there were also enough workers available. The cultivation of the herbs and the construction of a small herb drying plant were intended to demonstrate above all in practice what an efficient method of working actually means. These young people were shown by various tasks how to carry out the intentional production of herbs in harmony with man and nature, how marketing works and how it is possible to enter into partnerships for this purpose.
At the beginning of the project the cultivation of herbs was to be run solely by young people of the village. However, during the subsequent course of events it became increasingly clear that the women of the village were also very interested in herb cultivation, and so they were also incorporated into the project. A Demeter adviser from Switzerland, who was also a long-term expert on Georgia, was responsible together with a teacher for conveying the technical expertise to the villages. The seminars that accompanied the practical training dealt with a large number of topics. The agenda included, for example, biodynamic agriculture, the teaching of computer skills, production, financial accounting, drying and marketing strategies. The contents were prepared and taught in the form of a cooperation between the EthicFinance Association, the Georgian organic association Elkana and the Demeter adviser.
In retrospect it turned out that for the villagers the theoretical training component was of particular interest, mainly because otherwise there is often no other form of access to more education. For this reason, EthicFinance would like to offer more seminars on various topics in the future.
Project history and implemented targets
In 2012, four villagers set up the house and land for the planned cultivation of herbs. In 2013, six young people participated in the project as trainees and four to five adults as assistants. EthicFinance bought the herbs and also paid a small wage for the work.
In 2014 it was mainly the adults who cultivated the herbs. The children of the participants also helped. EthicFinance again bought the herbs and paid wages for the work.
Implemented targets – an overview
- Revitalisation of the village and creation of new prospects
- Stimulation of entrepreneurial and sustainable thinking among the young generation
- Positive social experiences through cooperation
- New development opportunities for the village with the help of its young people
- Identification of routes to self-employment
- Communication of modern cultivation and soil tillage methods
- Creation of an awareness of how to deal with nature and the quality of products
- Hands-on training
- Demeter certification
- Basis for the young people to continue to work independently after the end of the project
The EthicFinance Association
EthicFinance is a non-profit association registered in Georgia. Since 2008, various ethical, social, ecological and cultural development projects have been carried out. The focus of the subsidised work benefits the population in remote rural regions. Examples of the work include the establishment and development of an apple juice cooperative with young people in the village of Sobissi and advice on several non-profit initiatives with respect to legal and financial matters. Furthermore, there is a close connection with the EthicCapital Credit Union, a cooperative that supports small business owners, farmers, pupils and environmental initiatives with small loans.
What are the funds of the MAHLE FOUNDATION specifically used for?
The funds of the MAHLE FOUNDATION have mainly been used for the following purposes:
- Personnel costs for project administration and management
- Seminars on ecology, organic agriculture, plant production
- Computer courses and lessons on entrepreneurial activities
- Renovation and furnishing of the herbal drying room
- Renovation and furnishing of the seminar room
- Rental and ancillary costs
- Gardening equipment
- Items for product preparation
- Commuting expenses
The MAHLE FOUNDATION has been supporting the project since the beginning in May 2012. Originally the funding period was planned to last until the autumn of 2013, so that herbs would be sown and harvested twice. However, the purchase of the land was delayed until the autumn of 2012, so that the first seeds could not be sown until 2013. In response to this, the funding period was extended by one year until 31 August 2014 to allow the second harvest to be carried out. This was particularly important, as the cultivation of several types of herbs was to be trialled and the acquired knowledge consolidated.