About Pakka Georgia
The cultivation of hazelnuts is rarely or virtually never commercialized in Switzerland. Nearly all hazelnuts which are sold in the shops are imported. In contrast to Switzerland, Georgia has a long tradition of hazelnut cultivation and it is an important part of the Georgian agriculture. Hazelnut trees are spread out throughout the whole country; in fact hazelnut trees grow on 42% of the total agricultural land. Four regions are of particular importance: Imereti, Samegrelo-Zemosvaneti, Guria and Kakheti. Thanks to the low risk of late frost, the conditions necessary for cultivation are particularly advantageous in these regions. In general, hazelnuts are not very difficult to grow as far as their habitat is concerned; however, the flower of the hazelnut cannot withstand temperatures lower than -8°, otherwise there is a risk of losing the whole harvest..
Nevertheless, the farmers in Georgia are confronted with major difficulties. This is despite their long-term knowledge of hazelnut production and the favourable climatic conditions as well as the suitable soils for the cultivation of high quality hazelnuts. The collapse of the Soviet Union has brought about drastic changes in Georgia in the agricultural sector. Prices for production facilities such as petrol and fertilizers – goods which formerly were easily accessible suddenly soared while the selling prices for agricultural products did not rise to the same extent. Furthermore, as a consequence of the fragmentation of the Soviet kolkhoz-system into millions of very small agricultural units and the lack of institutional basic conditions, the farmers could no longer manage to sell their products. Consequently, most farmers have shifted to subsistence farming and therefore lost a substantial part of the yearly income of a farmer family, which was formerly earned through the selling of hazelnuts.
In Georgia, Pakka is part of a typical PPP project (public private partnership), cooperating with the two NROs – the Swiss aid organization HEKS (Hilfswerk der evangelischen Kirchen Schweiz) and the Georgian organization Elkana as well as the Georgian partner Anka Fairtrade. In the next project phase a sustainable value-added economic chain will be implemented in cooperation with roughly 1250 small farmers, who each cultivate 1 or 2 hectares of land. For their part, Pakka will incorporate the hazelnuts into their range of products and be supportive with the selling process, with the aim that the high-quality hazelnuts will find a large-scale market in Switzerland and Europe and hopefully soon become fairtrade and EU-organic-certified.