ENKA, the builder of Namakhvani HPP Cascade, within the framework of social responsibility, has established a small business support organization “Rioni Valley Development Association” in Imereti and Lechkhumi. Guram Sagharadze, Head of Community Development at ENKA, spoke to InterpressNews about the goals of the association, who will be its beneficiaries and in what form of assistance will it be to local businesses.
For what purpose was the “Rioni Valley Development Association” established?
We had the idea of creating an association two years ago. The aim of the association is to promote the development of the population of the Rioni Valley. In particular, the association will focus on promoting entrepreneurship, as well as organizing educational events, with a special focus on the development of agritourism, beekeeping and viticulture, as these are the leading industries in the region. I would like to note that this association is not created for a narrow group and we are going to work throughout Racha-Lechkhumi, Kvemo Svaneti and Imereti.
In what specific direction do you plan to work, how will you help local entrepreneurs?
In the production of agricultural products, we will support both primary production, as well as the development of a complete production chain, the introduction of international standards and the sale of manufactured products. As you know, processing production is not developed in the villages and there is low access to machinery, instead of wine production the focus is on selling raw grapes, also wine is often sold in bottles and winemakers do not have the basic means to produce bottled wine. We will do our best to help the population to develop successful family farms, which in turn will increase their income and help strengthen the rural population. Among them, we do not rule out the formation of small cooperatives in order to maximize the mobilization of resources. Prior to the establishment of the association, we actively assisted locals in a variety of ways, including participating in grant projects. However, our main task is to make tomorrow in the valley better. Therefore, we will do our best for this. In the future, we do not rule out that the Association itself will implement entrepreneurship grant programs.
The association is newly created, but many people look at us with hope and wait for what activities will take place. We have already managed and gained a market for honey. At this stage, we have a confirmed order for the export of 4 tons of honey to Kazakhstan, which is an unprecedented fact not only for the gorge, but for Georgia as a whole. However, I would like to point out that such steps pave the way for other entrepreneurs. This will not be a one-time event and there is already talk that honey and wine may be introduced to the Chinese market as well. We have brought advanced professionals in various fields of agriculture, including beekeeping, to the valley, and with their help we are trying to raise awareness.
Here I would like to respond to the sad misinformation that is spread as if the company is trying to bribe them by buying honey from the locals, which is obviously not true. The company cooperates with the locals based on their desire and everyone will see the real result of this cooperation.
The association was established within the framework of social responsibility of Enka. How important is this direction for the company?
When the project is implemented by a responsible company, it takes care to change the social situation of the locals for the better, this is the main goal. “Enka” operates in many countries and implements numerous social projects, high social responsibility is part of “Enka’s” policy and it is the same in Georgia.