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Wednesday | 02 February, 2011

Observations while Traveling through Samegrelo | Agriculture and Petty Crime

Much has been written about agriculture in Georgia, and the need to develop it extensively. Our upcoming reports on social capital (currently still under review with the donor) have some material on that. The typical concerns are well established: although fertile, Georgia is actually importing food. More than 50% of the employed work in agriculture, but it only contributes around 10% to GDP. And more than 50% of Georgia's arable land lies fallow. 

The reasons are also familiar: privatization separated the land into small parcels that were not viable for modern farming. The people left in the countryside often are conservative and skeptical, and not quick to adopt more productive methods. They do not cooperate, and thus cannot mobilize sufficient resources to develop their land.

Traveling through Samegrelo recently highlighted another challenge. The structure of landholdings makes them particularly vulnerable to petty crime. Often the holdings are away from people's houses, so that they cannot guard them. During planting season seeds, seedlings and little plants can be stolen from the field at night, so that investing into better plants is not very attractive. Moreover, shepherds don't always respect fields that have just been fenced off anew, and let their cows trott into enclosures; or cut the fence to let a stray cow out, without repairing it.

During harvest season, the problem is even more pronounced. Unless you harvest early, your crop is at threat. And if you harvest early, you may be doing damage to the fruit. For some of the crop, the harvest season is quite long, so that the fields remain vulnerable over several weeks.

If you have a small holding, it is hard to address this problem. Sleeping outdoors on your field will only get you so far, and is not sustainable over time.  With average landholdings being around less than two hectares (one hectare being a bit bigger than a soccer field), the plots are too small to pay for a security guard. Typically you will need two guards, so that they can support each other. Professional security firms would charge up to $1,000 per month. This makes it particularly difficult to experiment with higher value crops (say, avocado) since you may need a security guard to protect a handful of plants. Easier to fall back on what you have always done. 

Planting in Samegrelo. This effort has fences, two security guards constantly, night vision goggles, and is about to add a trained guard dog.

We are curious whether other people have heard about this problem. If it indeed appears to be a challenge, it would be worth researching this in more detail. The government could help address this issue by providing more security through increased policing and curbing road access, together with introducing stiff sentences to signal that stopping agricultural theft is important for Georgia's economic development. Comments and ideas?
04.12.2014 | Thursday

SME Performance in Georgia and Armenia: Part 2

As discussed in the first blog post of this series, the results of the CRRC Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey show that Georgians demonstrate higher levels of interpersonal and institutional trust than Armenians. These types of trust are important indicators of social capital, which is often taken as a necessary condition for the presence of a robust, productive entrepreneurial class and small and medium enterprise (SME) sector.
08.07.2011 | Friday

Georgia Adopts Law on the Status of Religious Minorities

On July 5, 2011 Georgia adopted a new legislative amendment into the country’s civil code stating that religious minority groups with “historic ties to Georgia” or those defined as religions by members of the Council of Europe can register as legal entities of public law. The initial draft of the law specifically mentioned the Roman Catholic Church, Muslim and Jewish communities, Armenian Apostolic Church and the Evangelical Baptist Church as having “close historic ties with Georgia”. However, the final draft did not specifically name these five groups.
16.05.2008 | Friday

Creative Commons for the Caucasus! | A real opportunity

Many readers will already be aware of the concept of Creative Commons. The basic idea is to facilitate collaboration, interaction and people adding value to each other's online work. Creative Commons provides licenses for sharing easily, without giving up some of the author's basic rights. A great exposition of this entire concept is given by the founder of the entire idea, Lawrence Lessig, in an engaging TED talk (you didn't think that intellectual property rights could be that entertaining, did you?). See below.
18.12.2006 | Monday

Barriers to Cooperative Ventures in Rural Georgia: Feisty Farmers

Much has been made about the collapse of agriculture in Georgia. From the overgrown tea plantations surrounding Zugdidi to the sere fields that used to be replete with apples in Gori, one encounters fallow land wherever one goes.