FAO in Georgia

FAO and EU bring innovation to local farmer’s potato production in Samtskhe-Javakheti


Joni Amirbekyan , a farmer from Samtskhe-Javakheti region has been in the agriculture business for over 15 years. Starting with a small agricultural input store in Akhalkalaki he has also been working on improving local livestock quality by importing high quality cow breeds from Europe.

Joni’s partnership with the European Union and FAO helped him to raise his business to the next level. The story began earlier this year, when he agreed to turn part of his agricultural land outside Akhalkalaki – the largest town in the region, into a demonstration plot showcasing best farming methods.

Partnering with Mostagro, a private agriculture enterprise, Joni planted 11 potato varieties at the trial agricultural plot where Good Agriculture and Climate Smart Agriculture practices were implemented as well. The varieties were evaluated on basis of yield, quality of potato, crop cycle duration, tolerance to Phytophtora (a serious phytosanitary issue affecting potato farmers in Akhalkalaki) and tolerance to Alternaria, which happens to affect Akhalkalaki crops frequently. As a result of the trial, now Joni can offer different options of potato varieties which are more profitable to farmers and bring less impact to the environment by requiring less pesticide use.

With his whole family being involved in the business, Joni expects a harvest of 40 tons of potatoes per hectare of his plot and expects to get this number up for the next season. The farmer says that the average harvest for his neighbouring potato farmers in the community is only 30 tons per hectare.

Joni’s plot became a base for Farmer’s Field Days in Akhalkalaki, where more than 100 local farmers and businessmen have already attended several trainings arranged by EU and FAO. FAO agronomists, using Joni’s plot as an example, explain to the local farmers the importance of soil preparation, integrated pest management and modern approaches to irrigation and fertigation.

Joni Amirbekian gladly displays his demo plot to the fellow farmers in the community, sharing with them modern potato production approaches and knowledge delivered to him by FAO expert agronomists. He proudly shows the drip irrigation system installed on his demonstration plot that significantly helped him to reduce the production cost and improve the harvest quality.

“We, here in Javakheti, are still using the same methods for agriculture that our fathers and grandfathers did, but you shouldn’t stop learning new approaches. FAO and EU have a great, experienced team and we’re already got better harvests thanks to them”, Joni stated.

Joni now offers 15 different varieties of potatoes to farmers in Javakheti – a region with a long tradition of potato production.

Joni’s plot in Samtskhe-Javakheti is one of the demonstration areas arranged by FAO and the EU under the ENPARD programme. This year, more than 600 farmers have been trained at the demonstration plots arranged under the project in eight different municipalities of Georgia.

The EU is supporting agriculture and rural development in Georgia through its ENPARD Programme. Implemented since 2013 with a total budget of EUR 179.5 million, the main goal of ENPARD is to reduce rural poverty in Georgia. The first phase of ENPARD in Georgia focused on developing the potential of agriculture.

The second and third phases of ENPARD focus on creating economic opportunities for rural population that go beyond agricultural activities. More information on ENPARD is available at: www.enpard.ge