"Leave No One Behind" – in focus of Swiss engagement

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Article, 03.03.2022

(Part 1, Georgia)

With the adoption of the Agenda 2030 in 2015, Switzerland pledged to "endeavour to reach the furthest behind first". The principle of ‘leave no one behind’ has been since pursued in all Swiss projects the world over. The Swiss Cooperation Office for the South Caucasus has started  a new series of articles dedicated to its efforts to tackle multidimensional poverty in rural areas of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.

Ana in her corn field
Ana is one of the women in the region to benefit from the Women Dairy Production project ©UN FAO

In pursuit of all-inclusive development

25 years ago, following wars and economic collapse in the region, Switzerland opened a regional office in Tbilisi and two programme offices in Armenia and Azerbaijan with the aim to end extreme poverty, curb inequalities, foster democratic institutions and contribute to government reforms. Impressive developmental achievements have improved the lives of many, but not all. People, especially those living in rural, remote, and mountainous areas do not equally benefit from development progress. Limited access to public or bank services, job markets, sanitation, and the inability to sustain livelihoods or pay for healthcare are just a few reasons for people to get left behind.

In 2015, Switzerland was one of the 193 countries to adopt the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and to commit to the principle of "leave no one behind", including rendering support to the three South Caucasus countries in their endeavour to implement the Agenda 2030. Since then, the focus of the Swiss cooperation in the region has been to eradicate multidimensional poverty by taking concrete measures needed to ensure that people, especially women and girls, left behind or at risk of being left behind are identified and provided necessary assistance to enable their full participation in economic, social, and political activities of their communities.

At risk of being left behind

It’s 8 a.m. in the village of Kurzu in the Martvili municipality (some 300 km. from capital Tbilisi, in the Samegrelo region). Ana Nachkebia, 35 years old and a mother of 4, is already on her way to a cowshed.

“Not much has changed since the Covid-19 pandemic, children need to be nourished, cows still need to be fed and milked, a cowshed needs to be cleaned,” says Ana.

Ana is a pharmacist by profession. She used to work at a drug store before she got married 10 years ago. Then, the story of Ana very much resembles many other women who cannot manage to juggle two full-time jobs, one outside and the other at home, taking care of the household. She quit her job and became a full-time housewife and mother. In the big family of 7 people, household chores can be overwhelming.

“I had to quit and take care of the family. My mother-in-law is a pensioner, my husband had to ‘migrate’ to Tbilisi for work and I stayed in the village to look after my 4 kids and cattle. My eldest children are now big enough to give me a hand; they are fond of animals and take good care of cattle when they are away for grazing,” says Ana cheerfully.

Five years ago, when her children started school and kindergarten and the time came when the eldest could keep an eye on the youngest, Ana started to produce milk products. She produces all sorts of dairy products, including cheese, matsoni, sour cream, cottage cheese, to name but a few.

“All-in-all, we have 7 cows and 3 calves. This breed does not yield much milk and, in addition, it is irregular. Fortunately, whatever I produce is just enough to sustain my family. Since I got engaged in subsistence farming, we economize on dairy products and meat. Even without any surplus for trade, it is a big support to my family. Obviously, as the children grow, we will need more,” she noted.

Ana Nachkebia is now one of the 1’000 beneficiaries of the project “Supporting Women in Small-scale Dairy Production”. The project is a unique opportunity for rural women to move from subsistence farming to more business-oriented farming. Ana has already benefitted from hands-on training in business and entrepreneurship. In addition, the project will help Ana improve her skills to yield more milk and learn about best hygiene practices and innovative technologies, as well as raise awareness on market needs and food safety standards. Newly acquired competences will facilitate smooth and easy access to local markets to sell her homemade dairy products and earn an income. She will also receive milk filters, medicines, thermometers, food supplements, etc. to support animal welfare, which is of vital importance as there is only one veterinary in the administrative center of Martvili, serving all adjacent villages. Beyond technical support, Ana will also learn about women’s rights and gender equality: this will further increase her resilience and contribute to her economic empowerment.

Launched in 2020 for a duration of 4 years, the project is being implemented by UN FAO and UN Women with a grant of USD 3’636’847.20 million from the Swiss government (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation – SDC).