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Zugdidi LAG begins work on Local Development Strategy



From the 15th - 17th September 2021, 20 members of Zugdidi Local Action Group (LAG) attended a workshop led by local and international experts, to support them in designing Local Development Strategy (LDS) for Zugdidi municipality. This technical support was provided within the framework of the project “Improving local governance through inclusive development approaches”, implemented by Action Against Hunger (AAH) and funded by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) with funds from Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC).

During the three-day workshop, Ms. Ivana Laginia, an agronomist and rural development/LEADER expert from Croatia, and local LEADER expert Mr. Aslan Artmeladze, guided the LAG members through the strategy development process. The main activities included: discussions on the role of the LAG in supporting rural development; an analysis of local stakeholders in the development process; performing a SWOT analysis of Zugdidi municipality; forming a common vision to facilitate collaboration between local government, civil society organisations and the private sector. The strategy, once formulated, will outline the objectives, priorities and actions for the development of the municipality and will be the main document in the process of selecting and financing social and commercial ideas focused on inclusive rural development.“This type of training is very necessary” said Zviad Karchava, 44, Director Zugdidi Botanical Garden and LAG member, “as not all people have experience in writing up strategic plans. But I feel confident that the LAG attendees are the right people for the job.” Zviad brings over 20 years’ experience in strategy development and advising businesses on writing strategic plans, grant proposals such things – “I am here simply to help and in the long-term I hope I can assist the LAG to procure funding from international organizations.” Zviad sees the potential of the LAG to “help the villages in Zugdidi to develop and to stop the young people leaving … if we can do some small things then maybe we can reduce this migration.”

“Personally speaking, there is urgent need to develop Zugdidi municipality, for myself, my family and especially my kids”, said Ana Kochua, 34, who works as project manager on civil education projects for an international NGO, and who sees the LAG as a huge opportunity for the vulnerable population in rural areas. On the expectations of what the LAG can achieve, Ana says: “LAG members are very realistic, and they will manage the existing challenges … We need to change our approach to have more sustainable, useful, focused projects … since the nineties we have seen many development projects and organisations in Georgia, but challenges still remain. Things can maybe be done better through the LAG.”Ana Emukhvari, 33, an historian currently working for the Tourist Information Centre of Zugdidi, is originally from Abkhazia. Before working in tourism, Ana worked with non-governmental organisations supporting community mobilization and Disaster Risk Reduction. She heard about other LAGs happening in Georgia and felt such a thing was badly needed in Zugdidi and represented an opportunity to bring some improvement: “Coming from a tourism perspective, tourism in Georgia can be one of the main drivers of the economy.”

Bakur Khubulava, 25, from Chakrinti village, is currently studying for a master’s degree in international Relations and works for local NGO, Wake Up, which promotes Mingrelian culture, sports, literature. Speaking on the LDS sessions, “I am happy to be here, to share and learn new knowledge. At first people were quiet with not much interaction but after the first day it is much better, lots of discussion and brainstorming.” His hope for the LAG “is to have those people in the villages share in the decision-making … more inclusion of vulnerable people, tolerance … and a greener environment for the municipality.”

A second workshop that will continue this LDS drafting process is planned from the 9th - 11th October 2021.

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