Agricultural biodiversity conservation in Georgia
Georgia has a long tradition in agriculture. Archaeological findings prove that agriculture was practiced in Georgia since the 6th-5th millennium BC. The great morphological and genetic diversity of the oldest crops and their wild relatives, as well as some ancient species of domesticated animals, preserved until today, give reason to believe that Georgia is one of the centers of origin of some of the important cultivated plants (e.g. vine and wheat) and domestic animals.
Due to its geographic position as a trade corridor connecting Europe and Asia, Georgia has been a recipient of new genetic material for ages. The country’s climatic conditions and soils created a good precondition for adapting new crops. Cultivated plants and animal species of Georgia therefore constitute a significant part of the world cultural heritage.
Georgia’s agro-ecosystems are the economic basis for Georgian agriculture. Local plant species and varieties as well as breeds of domesticated animals, together with microorganisms and fungi that participate in food production, have not only cultural, but also great economic and scientific value for the country.
The Georgian NGO, Biological Farming Association Elkana, IUCN Member, works on the conservation and sustainable utilization of the agricultural biodiversity of the country since 1996. The agricultural biodiversity conservation program of Elkana has been continuously supported by German donor organizations – EED (Church Development Service) and Misereor.
In the frame of the Project “Conservation and Sustainable Use of Georgia’s Agricultural Biodiversity” financed by Global Environment Facility/United Nations Development Programme and implemented by Elkana, six landraces of different species of grain crops, five landraces of different species of legumes as well as one technical crop were reintroduced in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region. On the demonstration plot of the project, local varieties of grapevine and fruits were collected and multiplied with the purpose of distributing them among farmers. For legume crops, marketing chains were developed.
Since autumn 2011, with the financial support of the MATRA Social Transition Programme of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Georgia and Armenia, Elkana is working on a small-scale project on “The Conservation and Sustainable Use of Domestic Animals at Risk of Extinction in Georgia”. The project provides for on-farm conservation of local animal breeds – a demonstration farm has been set up in the village of Zemo Khodasheni (Kakheti region). For the purpose of reproduction and distribution among interested farmers, the following local breed animals have been introduced: Georgian Mountain Cow (Tushur-Khevsuruli); Tushuri Sheep; Megruli Goat; Kakhuri Pig as well as five local hen populations.
For more information please visit: www.elkana.org.ge.