Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Caucasus: Sep ‘08

IWPR report prompts government to help farmers affected by recent hailstorms.
A report on the IWPR-produced radio programme Accent highlighting the plight of Georgian grape farmers whose vineyards were damaged by hail storms has prompted government action.

Late in September, a heavy hailstorm damaged vineyards in a number of villages in the Kakheti region. The local farmers subsequently found it hard to sell what was left of their crops.

The Accent reporter Roman Kevkhishvili said Kakheti peasants, who depend on the vineyards for their survival, looked to be facing a year of extreme hardship because the wine-producing factories refused to buy their hail-damaged grapes.

The governor of the region, Giorgi Gviniashvili, responded to the radio report on the day it was broadcast, meeting the affected farmers and promising to address their problem.

“The governor has fulfilled his promises, and the peasants were given a chance to sell their hail-damaged crops,” said spokesperson for the governor Mari Shavshiashvili. “Not a single gramme of their grapes has remained unsold.”

The government had tried to help Georgian wine-makers overcome the crisis they had found themselves in after the Georgia-Russia armed conflict by providing them substantial subsidies. But this assistance didn’t cover weather-related damage to vineyards.

“We could not hope to sell our grapes,” said Kakheti farmer Simon Kirvalidze. “What can the owners of wineries do? Nobody wants to buy goods of poor quality.

“IWPR journalists listened to our complaints and promised to make them known to our governor. Later the governor himself promised to help us sell our grapes, and he really did so in the end.”

“This is not the first time hailstorms have damaged our grapes, but no one has ever tried to help us,” said Kirvalidze. “I can’t say to whom I’m more grateful – the Accent journalist, who took our complaints to the governor, or to the governor himself, who responded immediately to the journalist’s report.”

The twice-monthly Accent programme is produced as part of IWPR’s Georgia Regional Media Network Project, involving journalists from around the country and unrecognised territories.

It is broadcast by four popular radio stations in Georgia, and is aimed at improving the flow of news and information to the country’s regions and breakaway territories.