Demand-driven Research for Inclusive and Sustainable Rural Development in Georgia

Agriculture is a crucial economic sector in the Republic of Georgia. Yet since the collapse of the Soviet Union 28 years ago it is struggling with land tenure and productivity issues as well as low value addition. The agricultural land privatization reforms of the 1990s not only led to extreme land fragmentation but put the land in the hands of rural dwellers who had never experienced land ownership and/or commercial farm activities. Rural poverty continues to be high in many regions of the country.

In order to tackle these challenges, international development organisations and governmental schemes focus on numerous aspects of agriculture and rural development. Time and again the question arises how policies and development projects can be shaped best to foster productivity and sustainable land management, entrepreneurship and innovation. We believe that innovative high quality research for development can play a key role in this by analysing the needs, opinions and behaviour of stakeholders, evaluating and comparing the impact of past interventions and forecasting scenarios for the future. Put differently, this project aims to proactively link specific, real-world development interventions to applied research and thereby to assist and inform ongoing and pipeline projects.

Both the group International Agriculture at the School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences (HAFL) in Zollikofen, Switzerland, as well as the Agricultural Policy Research Center (APRC) at the International School of Economics (ISET) in Tbilisi, Georgia, have ample experience in demand-oriented research for agricultural and rural development. Therefore we would like to team up to jointly conduct applied research for different international organisations as well as the Georgian government. We intend to establish a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two institutions and to develop a common concept note regarding the mutual and complementary areas of excellence which we can offer to potential partners in development cooperation. This concept note shall be shared in and beyond our networks. We want to invite interested organisations to brainstorming workshops in order to identify their key needs and challenges to be addressed by applied research. Based on this, we will develop concrete project proposals to be submitted to apt funding schemes. While the specific focus shall be defined by our partners, potential areas for research include the core competences of the team and key topics of Georgian agriculture today: needs and impact assessments, value chain analyses, questions related to sustainable (range)land management and/or innovation adoption studies. While potential barriers to sustainable land management and innovation adoption are well researched and documented in literature in general, Georgia’s case allows for exploring these issues in the specific context of a Soviet past.

Overall, our demand-driven, application-oriented and inclusive approach is all the more important and promising in a post-conflict context such as the Republic of Georgia.