Hazelnut Farmer Finds Success through Trainings and Association Membership
Hazelnuts are an important crop for many of Georgia’s farmers, but growers face a number of production and harvesting challenges that have, until now, limited their success. Iveri Kvaratskhelia, a hazelnut farmer from the Nakipu village Nakipu in the Tsalenjikha district of Georgia’s Samegrelo region, was intrigued by the trainings provided by the USAID Economic Prosperity Initiative (EPI). At that time he owned four hectares of hazelnut orchard. Through EPI, Mr. Kvaratskhelia learned modern methods of farming, including new orchard establishment techniques. Following the trainings, he added five new hectares to his hazelnut production.
Reflecting on his experience, Mr. Kvaratskhelia says, “For me the training was very interesting; I received a lot of information, particularly in new orchard establishment, and I used that information while setting up my new orchard.”
EPI’s trainings have helped improve farmers’ productivity and quality. To date, more than 1,000 farmers and service providers have benefited from the improved hazelnut production methods and post-harvest handling practices learned at these trainings.
Mr. Kvaratskhelia then established an informal farm group with 25 other hazelnut farmers. With EPI’s support, he was able to transition the informal group into an established agricultural cooperative. EPI linked the cooperative members with the Georgian Hazelnut Growers Association, which serves its members with free de-husking and drying services for their produce. As a member of the Association, Mr. Kvaratskhelia was able to dry his 2013 crop, and stored seven tons of hazelnuts using modern methods of post-harvest handling. As a result, his inventory had higher than average kernel outcome rate (the rate of sellable nuts per container), reaching 44%, whereas the average in Georgia is only 36%. Mr. Kvaratskhelia stored his produce until January 2014, when he sold his hazelnuts at price premium of 0.25 GEL per kg, due to their high quality.
Farmers like Mr. Kvaratskhelia will continue to implement the best practices they learned through EPI’s trainings, and will reap the benefits of belonging to an association. Thanks to EPI, they will experience improved productivity, increased quality, and be able to access premium prices for their products.