Farmer Field Schools: Motivation for rural women
“Since the very first meeting, everything has changed. At first, they wondered what new things they would learn; some came only because they couldn’t say no to me, and some just wanted to see who else would be there. But when the meeting was over, they liked it so much that they asked when the next one would be.” That is how 34-year-old Gulnazi Gakharia recalls the first meeting of the Farmer Field School in the village of Mukhuri in Chkhorotsku Municipality.
Gulnazi is the leader of her local Farmer Field School, an initiative supported by UN Women and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The school operates in the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region and serves to establish a network of female farmes and conduct training for them to strengthen and develop relevant skills. With the help of the platform, women farmers learn international standards of nutrition and food safety, as well as modern cheese production technologies, including how to make Italian caciotta and grilled cheese. With the support of the training centre of Liberty Bank, a signatory to the Women’s Empowerment Principles of the United Nations, the participants deepen their entrepreneurship, leadership and business management skills. In addition, they gain valuable knowledge about women’s rights and domestic violence.
Twenty women participating in the Farmer Field School were meeting at Gulnazi’s house in the village of Mukhuri. Gulnazi is an experienced farmer. She has been helping her mother since she was a child, and even now she shares the work with her. Gulnazi actively produces cheese, including Italian cheese, and sells it on the spot. The school turned out to be an additional source of motivation for her. She wants to increase her production of Italian cheeses and use the tourist potential of her native village for business development: many vacationers gather in Mukhuri in summer. Gulnazi is planning to open a seasonal cheese stall and offer her products to others.
“The trainings that I completed through this project gave me the knowledge and skills that I needed to realize this idea. I believe that I will go forward and completely reimagine cheese production,” says Gulnazi, adding that many local women now want to join the initiative. “The Farmer Field School is a source of motivation for them too, and it makes me very happy. Such projects help women to realize their potential, diversify their lives, learn about their rights and strengthen them. Empowered women become good examples for others.”
Another woman whose everyday life is completely different today is 30-year-old Teona Keburia, a mother of three children and a beginner farmer who is a kind-hearted fellow villager and friend. Although she only makes cheese for her family and does not sell it yet, she participates in all events and exhibitions: she gets experience herself and also helps other female farmers.
“For 13 years, I had only been busy with housework and taking care of my children; I rarely went out,” Teona explains. “This project has changed my life. Every meeting brings me new knowledge and support - motivation that I can be one of these women. I only have three dairy cows and I am a small farmer, but I will definitely develop.”
The Farmer Field Schools are part of the project “Promoting the Economic Empowerment of Women Farmers by Supporting Dairy Production through Farmer Field School (FFS) Approaches”. Within its framework, a total of 20 field schools will be created in eight municipalities, and 1,000 farmers will be trained. The project is implemented with the financial support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.