"Fruits of heroism" - products that come from the villages near the occupation line

News | Memory and Disinformation Studies 24 October 2022

The presentation of the "Fruits of Heroism" campaign launched by the Georgian Information Integrity Program (GIIP) / USAID funded project - "Solidarity Branding" was held on October 13.

With the joint efforts of USAID, Zinc Network and the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), farmers living near the occupation line in Shida Kartli sell their agricultural products to "Carrefour" (Tbilisi Mall, East Point), "Zgapari" (up to 30 branch) and "Smart" (Gori, Kakheti, Gudar) chain stores. It is already possible to buy fruits, dried fruits and nuts under the campaign "Heroism Fruits" brand. These products are produced in Bershueti, Dvani, Mejvriskhevi, Dirbi and Shindisi.


Within the framework of the "Fruits of Heroism" campaign, at the pilot stage, customers will have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the products of five beneficiaries, about whom we will tell you short stories:


1. Ekaterine Khodeli is from the village of Bershueti. As a result of the August 2008 war, she lost the right to enter her mother's village (the occupied village of Xuis), where her grandfather's grave is. An 82-year-old grandmother passed away due to the difficulties and hardships she faced, as well as the fear and pain associated with the prospect of returning home. As Ekaterine points out, the fear has not gone anywhere, the constant bordering has not stopped... and this is most felt near the occupation line!


"The cultivated Georgian land near barbed wire and the launched Georgian production are a great incentive for the Georgian side, for the local population, and are an expression of the development of the Georgian economy. When you know that you are serving the Georgian cause, you show a patriotic, worthy example by your actions, you easily deal with any obstacle and the permanent fear of creeping occupation," - Ekaterine Khodeli.




She and her family members formed an agricultural cooperative in 2020, organized the enterprise building with their own resources and equipped it accordingly. With financial assistance from a grant, they acquired a fruit drying machine and in the summer of 2021, began producing dried plums as a product - "something sweet".


On October 19, in the village of Bershueti, Russian occupiers abducted a Georgian citizen from the territory of Georgia that is under their control. This person happened to be a neighbor of Ekaterina. Given this event, it is understandable that Ekaterina and her family live in fear and constant danger while conducting their business. Ekaterina believes that in the fight against this injustice, everyone should contribute through their words, actions, and by promoting economic development.



2. Davit Gelutashvili resides in the village of Dirbi. On August 8, 2008, Russian occupiers launched an attack on several Georgian villages, including Dirbi, where they dropped bombs and set fire to the area. Despite the destruction, the young farmer continues to conduct business in the village of Dirbi, which is located just a few hundred meters from the line of occupation. He constructed a dried fruit factory on the very spot where the Russian forces bombed and destroyed it 14 years ago.




Davit Gelutashvili was able to start his business in 2021 and is currently in the process of acquiring the necessary equipment. At this time, the "Frutera" enterprise produces dried plums, dried apples, chips made from plums, and tkemali pulp.


"Maybe we should never give up on trying to preserve our land... it's tough when each piece of land is calling out to be taken care of and continue the work of our ancestors," said Davit Gelutashvili.



3. Maka Kvrivishvili has been growing plum orchards in the village of Medjvriskhevi and her goal was to start a business producing dried plums. In 2020, she applied for a grant program that supports the establishment of fruit and vegetable drying enterprises. She was awarded the grant and was able to purchase a 500 kg drying machine. This is when she started producing dried plums.


It is worth mentioning that Maka lives close to the line of occupation and experienced the war of August 2008 with greater intensity. She remembers:




"You don't realize the full impact of war during the war itself as much as you do in the aftermath. It has been 14 years now and the constant border crossing still continues... too many people were unable to return to their homes...


For me, the most emotional moment was when we learned on television that another border crossing happened in our village. We might not be able to visit the graves of our father and grandfather... when you see the grave of your grandparents in the objective and know that the occupiers are just 10 meters away, it's very difficult," said Maka Kvrivishvili.



4. Yuri Kopadze is from the village of Dvani. It is worth noting that Yuri and his family have been displaced twice within their own country- the first time during the conflict in the 1990s, after which they lived in the village of Tamarashen in the Didi Liakhvi valley until 2008, and the second time in 2008 as a result of the Russian occupation of the Tskhinvali region.


"It's not easy to lose everything twice and then have to start over. Our family settled in the village of Dvani, which is located in the conflict zone and the so-called border passes through it. It is important to note that during the 2008 war, the government lost control over the village of Dvani and it was occupied. The people had to return to a village that had been looted, partially burned, and destroyed," Yuri Kopadze remembers.




In 2009, Yuri and his family began building R.K. "Dynasty". They hired several dozen people and provided an opportunity for more people to easily sell their fruits. Currently, Yuri and his family produce hazelnut and walnut churchkhela, dry fruit, and dry jam.


"Our decision to establish a business in Dvani was well aware of the high risks involved and we are also aware that in case of a renewal of the conflict or any tension, the risks will increase even more. However, in our case, the priority is not just the prosperity of the business or creating ideal conditions for it, but rather, the priority is to provide the local community with something that will keep them from leaving," said Yuri Kopadze.



5. Leri Saneblidze is from the village of Shindis. He grows a variety of fruits and vegetables such as apples, strawberries, tomatoes, etc. However, as he notes, the events that took place 14 years ago have set back his agricultural activities and things have not improved. Until now, he has been trying to sell his products at local markets and shops. He remembers being in the village during the August 2008 war and leaving on the morning of August 11th, but returning on the 13th and has stayed in the village since.


"My goal is to strengthen the village and not leave my home area," said Leri Saneblidze.




It should be noted that in the future, it is planned to expand the distribution networks to make the products produced at the occupation line more widely available.


The project was made possible with financial assistance from USAID and the American people, as part of the "Branding of Solidarity: Promotion of Entrepreneurs Living Near the Occupied Territories in Shida Kartli Region" project.


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