During the 43rd Committee on World Food Security (CFS43), participants discussed farmers, ago-entrepreneurs, and family businesses. There was much talk about women farmers and their importance in rural development. But the question is: where arethe women farmers? During the sessions, I was looking forward to finding the young people and women farmers. And I then I found her.
Ana Mikadze-Chikvaidze is a chairwoman of the Georgian Cheese Makers’ Association. She is here at CFS43 to gather experience from other people and take it back to Georgia. She is looking for organizations which are working to discover traditional, unique sorts of products and promote them. For these reasons she was attending the Side Event about “Improving agribusiness and access to markets of small scale farmers”. But she discovered that every case is different, and what works in Western Cape will not work in Georgia.
Mrs. Mikadze-Chikvaidze is a woman farmer from Georgia and well-known among cheese lovers. She travels from village to village to discover and promote unique types of cheese and collect information from cheese masters.
Her creation – the Cheese Fest – serves the same purpose, which is to promote and introduce cheese to people. Three years ago, she opened a Cheese House in Tbilisi, where customers are offered about 53 types of products. This was the place where you could try and buy your favorite cheese.
Several months ago she closed it. She tells me that she wants to take time out for a year to get involved fully in farming and agriculture.
“Cheese is a very sensitive, delicate product. Hands, eyes, heart and soul – they all are the creators of cheese. A person of bad energy cannot make a good cheese. Cheese is a living creature, like a child: it is born, growing and developing.”
Fortunately, traditions are still maintained, even though there has been a period of stagnation, when the diversity of the Georgian cheese vanished from the sight of the Georgian customers. “This was in the era of the Soviet Union, during which time there was a war on individualism and that included food products as well,” Ms. Mikadze-Chikvaidze explained.
The idea of creating the Cheese Fest came later. Some people thought she was crazy; some joked about it and others were skeptical. But she remained determined, and traveled around the regions in search of the cheese makers.
When she realized that the “materials” she collected were sufficient for the Cheese Fest. she began to prepare for the first fest by visiting several regions and meeting the cheese producers.
However, on the day of the fest, not a single person showed up in “Bebris Bagi”. She found herself distressed, sitting in a garden. All of a sudden, several buses started to gather at the entrance to the garden. It appeared that a lot of people had brought a wide range of interesting samples.
It was magical to see such a variety of cheese spread around the garden. There was a cheese aged in wine, Meskhetian Tenili; cheese threads in a clay pot; goat cheese stuffed in vine leaves, Megrelian Guda; Crusted cheese of Tsalka Chogi, Kalti both, raw and dry. In sum, the festival was a success and she realized it wouldn’t be right to stop there.
She has suppliers who have their own farms. She knows all their details, starting from the names of the cows to their nutrition and health condition.
Recently, she began looking for investors for another interesting initiative: a cheese factory-museum in Teleti. This will showcase both European and Georgian production. She will make cheese following old traditions.
“I plan to bring back all the forgotten cheese varieties. And I need to buy milk in the corresponding regions. I’m building a large cellar, where I will age cheeses as described in historical sources and observe the development of each type in certain conditions.” This will be a small enterprise by European standards with only 100 cows in total.
So, here she was, a female farmer and agro-entrepreneurs, from my own country, at CFS!
Blogpost by Melano Dadalauri, Nana Kobaidze, #CFS43 Social Reporters – firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Georgian cheese, courtesy Lana Iantberidze
This post is part of the live coverage during the 43rd Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.