Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

16 October 2023

World Food Day

Marina Rukhaia

“If I compare myself today to my early thirties, before resettlement, I could never have imagined achieving this much.”


At 57, Marina Rukhaia has had a more eventful life than many in her village of Etseri in the northwest of Georgia. These days, she runs a successful dairy farm and cheese business, along with a sizeable honey production. But the road to that livelihood was a windy one.    

Marina, her husband and their two children fled their home on two occasions due to conflict and eventually started life from scratch in a little wooden house in Etseri with few belongings.   

“I remember well, we didn’t even have basic household items,” recalls Marina, who started working as a physics teacher at the local school. “The family had to take turns eating because we did not have enough dishes.”  

She eventually purchased one cow and started making cheese for home consumption. But she soon noticed the market demand for dairy was high and gradually bought more cattle. Today, she owns ten cows and teaches other women in her region how to get the most out of their dairy production.  

Marina is the Lead Farmer in a local Farmer Field School, a learning model in which she receives training from FAO experts and then passes on that knowledge to groups of women who learn and practice together. 

She  teaches best hygiene and manufacturing practices and food safety standards,  as well as new marketing techniques and a better understanding the market from technologies to packaging and labeling.  

In all, Marina teaches more than 250 women through a network of 20 Farmer Field Schools in her region, a platform where they can discuss challenges on the farm and build foundations for future collaboration. 

FAO is helping Marina to identify local buyers and build market linkages, while UN Women provides business training to build strong production systems, all funded by The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). Marina now plans to produce aged cheese as a new  local cheese in her region. 

She is keen to encourage other women to get involved in farming no matter how educated they are on the subject, she says. 

 “I think women should fight their fear and make the most of all opportunities,” she says. “If I compare myself today to my early 30sI could never have imagined achieving this much.”