The agricultural cooperative movement started a few years ago in Georgia and the registered farmer groups are currently still at the embryonic stage of development. The Soviet legacy and rather a negative attitude towards earlier forms of cooperation (Kolkoz and Sovkhoz) has gradually faded among farmers, and today more than 1,400 cooperatives are registered with the Agricultural Cooperative Development Agency under the Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia.
It might be the case that most registered because of the favorable programs and projects directed at cooperatives coming from donor organizations and the Government of Georgia. The main program that supported cooperative development in Georgia, is the European Neighborhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD). Consortia of the following organizations implemented ENPARD’s cooperation development component: CARE, Oxfam, Mercy Corps, People in Need, and UNDP Georgia. In a 4-year period of operation, the program directly supported more than 280 cooperatives by purchasing assets (mainly fixed assets) and providing intensive technical support via training sessions, bringing experts to the field, building market linkages, and providing day-to-day support in many other directions.
Not many studies have been undertaken on modern agricultural cooperatives in Georgia, which first started to be established in 2014. This report is a rare effort to describe and evaluate the development of such cooperatives in Georgia; focusing in particular on the 281 cooperatives that were directly supported by ENPARD. The results of this report represent the data received from those cooperatives that unite 4,666 members (34% female) as of the end of 2017. The biggest cooperative had 1,303 members at the time of the survey, and the smallest had just 3. However, if we consider the median number of members per cooperative, this increased from 8 members in 2014 to 10 members in 2017.
ENPARD invested 13.6 million GEL in the abovementioned 281 cooperatives, and 4.4 million GEL was invested by the members of the cooperatives themselves as a direct initial investment. In addition, over the four-year period, another 8 million GEL was invested from different sources, including the government, private sector, and donors other than ENPARD. In total, about 26 million GEL was provided as direct investment in those 281 cooperatives, amounting to approximately 92,000 GEL per cooperative.