Cultivating Success: Switzerland's Support for Vocational Education in Georgia's Agricultural Sector

Article, 03.04.2024

Georgia boasts centuries-old agricultural traditions, but it is currently experiencing a shortage of modern approaches, technology, and a young workforce. The active participation of educated youth is important to infuse innovation and new skills into agricultural practices. Moreover, engaging young people in agricultural activities is crucial for retaining them in rural areas. Switzerland has been supporting modernization of vocational education and training in agriculture since 2013, recognizing it as a key element for sustainable development in the Georgia’s regions. In 2023, 7 graduates finished the Swiss Agriculture School Caucasus equipped with knowledge and skills to be successful in their future endeavours.

Demetre in the field
Demetre Ergemlidze is one of the SASC graduates with big plans and passion for agriculture © Demetre Ergemlidze

Part 1: Demetre Ergemlidze

Demetre is feeding a cow
More young people are interested in agriculture in Georgia ©Demetre Ergemlidze

On 29 September, 2023, the Swiss Agriculture School Caucasus (SASC) hosted its first ever graduation ceremony. The school management, professors from Georgia and Switzerland, honourable guests, special guests and partners from canton Graubünden and Swiss college Plantahof got together to celebrate the graduation of 7 young aspiring professionals and to wish them good luck in their new journey, as ambassadors of vocational education in Georgia. 

Demetre, 32 years old, is one of the 7 graduates with a passion for the land and a vision for the future. Demetre's engagement in agriculture was unconventional, marked by twists and turns that ultimately led him to the Swiss Agriculture School in Dmanisi.

“I am a journalist, agri-journalist to be more exact. I was an anchor and co-producer of the content we created for farmers and all interested in agriculture. At some point I decided to study agriculture and get an academic knowledge in the field of my profession. I was admitted to the Agrarian University, which offered a 4-year course in agriculture. Later on, I realized that it was beyond my capability to both work and study agriculture for the entire four-year duration. I quitted,” says Demetre.

Years later, Demetre learnt about the Swiss Agriculture School Caucasus, which presented a different approach. Unlike his previous academic pursuits, the Swiss model offered a blend of theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience. Over the course of two years at the school, Demetre had a chance to get to know the Swiss system of dual vocational education, practice at the local farm in Dmanisi, travel to Switzerland and meet Swiss farmers.

“The program at the school was diverse and provided a wealth of information,” Demetre reflects. "It standardized and systematized knowledge for me, transitioning from my background as a journalist. It helped me clarify the kind of farmer I aspire to become. I plan to return to my hometown Chiatura and start a small-scale farm."

His graduation from SASC marked the beginning of his lifelong commitment to work in agriculture. Today, he provides extension services to farmers in Eastern Georgia. Looking to the future, he envisions to establish a small-scale farming operation on his family's land in Chiatura, including goat and poultry farming, and vegetable cultivation. Though his plot may be modest, Demitri sees potential not only for agricultural productivity but also for fostering bio-farming and agri-tourism.

For Demitri and his peers, the Swiss Agriculture School (SACS) and the broader Swiss project have succeeded in making vocational education much more popular, paving the way for a new generation of farmers equipped with the skills and passion to contribute to the development of Georgia's agricultural sector.

The Swiss Agricultural School which is co-financed under SDC’s “Modernizing Vocational Education and Training System” aims to create opportunities for rural farmers and dairy processors to improve their employment and productivity by providing high-quality programs in agriculture.