About the project
About the project
At the beginning of the XXI century, along with many other problems, the world is under threat of biodiversity loss - natural ecosystems are destroyed, many species and varieties of cultural and wild plants and animals are lost. This process can lead to a catastrophic destabilization of the biosphere and deterioration of human living conditions. Therefore, protection of biodiversity is one of the main challenges for the civilized world.
Caucasus is recognized as one of the most distinctive biodiversity regions by the International organizations. WWF's one of the 35 Priority Places ("the Black Sea large pool") covers the Caucasus region; Conservation International has defined "34 biodiversity hot spots"(which are marked out as areas with the richest, but seriously endangered biodiversity) and Georgia is associated to two - the Caucasus and Iran – Anatolia "hotspots".
Georgia has traditionally been an agricultural country. Archaeological materials prove that local inhabitants were engaged into agriculture since VI-V BC. Scientists believe that the first domestication of plants and animals and, therefore, the rise of agriculture on the territory of the Western Asia (so-called "Fertile Crescent" area), occurred about 9-10 thousand years ago. These areas border Georgia and, in the same time, partly match settlementes of Georgian tribes in the prehistoric period. The wide morphological and genetic diversity of ancient crops (endemic species and local varieties/landraces) and their wild relatives, as well as some oldest species of domestic animals, give us reason to think that Georgia itself is one of the centers of the origin for a number of important cultural plants or domesticated animals.
Georgia covers 23 soil-climatic zones and possess the unique plant diversity and species composition – almost all kinds of agricultural crops are spread here: cereals and legumes, fruit, vegetables and grapevine. The cereal crops alone, which are spread in Georgia, account 100 families and 350 local species. Our country as a part of Western Asia (Asia Minor) center of origin of cultivated plants is considered to be the primary center of origin for such crops as barley, millet, flax, vetch, peas, alfalfa, clover; Georgia is one of the main centers of origin of wheat and grapevine – accordind to the literature sources, 500 local varieties of grapevine are described in Georgia, and 14 from 20 worldwide cultivated wheat species are cultivated here, five of which are endemic. At the same time, the geographic location determined that this area was used as a trade corridor connecting Europe and Asia. Due to this for centuries the new genetic material has been entering Georgia, while the diversity of climat and soil conditions created a good precondition for the adaptation of new crops. So appeared a lot of local varieties of the imported crops. For example., Maize, beans, soya and other introduced species widely spread in Georgia and gave rise to the many local varieties and forms, which today may be attributed to the local agro-biodiversity. For example., 50 varieties of Georgian bean are known.
As for livestock in Georgia, until the beginning of the XX century local folk breeds of domestic animals were widespread. The most notable are Georgian Mountain and Mingrelian red cow, Georgian population of Caucasian buffalo, Tushetian and Imeretian sheep, Mingrelian goat, Tushetian and Mingrelian horse, five local populations of chicken, Djavakhuri goose, Georgian Mountain Gray bees, Georgian shepherd and etc. The local pig populations – Kakhetian and Svanetian pigs are known from ancient times. They are created by means of domestication and folk selection of wild pig, common on the southern slopes of the Caucasus.
In spite of a low productivity of some old breeds, compared to their modern analogs, they represent an important material for breeders and farmers, since they possess such qualities as fatness, viability, resistance to harsh climatic conditions and diseases and etc. These features are especially useful in changing economic and climatic conditions and have an essential value for the global food security.
At present, important genetic resources - ancient Georgian cultivated plants and their wild relatives, medicinal plants and local landraces/ breeds of animals are facing the threat of extinction and their survival depends on complex measures.
The one of the objectives of Georgian National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) is the Agricultural Biodiversity Conservation using different strategic approaches – which imply the inventory and assessment of plant and animal landraces, their wild species, the micro flora (micro-organisms and fungi) of traditional fermented products, and preparation of "red list" for important genetic resources for food and agriculture.
The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) asked "Sustainable Management of Biodiversity " (SMB) project of GIZ to help prepare a catalog of endemic species, which will create the database, also will promote awareness and product identification and branding. The catalogue concept was developed by Association "Elkana", SMB, MoA and the Agricultural University of Georgia on the basis of discussions and deliberations.
The project - " Preparation of electronic catalogue of Georgian agricultural biodiversity" has been carried out by the Association "Elkana" within the framework of project - "Biodiversity Management in South Caucasus" of the Program - German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ).
The aim of the project was the consolidation of existing knowledge of agricultural biodiversity, reconcilation of views of specialists/experts and preparation of electronic catalogue (in Georgian and English languages) by involvement of the society.
The catalog embraces aboriginal and local breeding varieties/ species of cultivated plants and domesticated animals:
field and vegetable crops - 317 varieties,
grapevine - 251 varieties, ,
fruit and berry crops - 217 varieties,
agricultural and domestic animals - 39 species.
The catalog will set up a base for the inventory of genetic resources important for food and agriculture, the legislation of varieties use and availability of genetic resources and the ratification and implementation of the Nagoya Protocol of the Biodiversity Convention for the fair distribution of their usage benefits (ABS).
Local varieties catalogue also can play an important role in the implementation of an agreement - "Protection of geographical indications of agricultural and food products" - signed on 14 July 2011 by the European Union and Georgia for the identification and branding of local traditional products. Geographical indication (GI) is a name or any other symbol that indicates the origin of the product from a specific geographic location (country, region, area), resulting in a product-specific quality, reputation or other characteristics. This agreement is the first such agreement between the EU and its neighbors, and its purpose is the bilateral protection of geographical indications, development of high-quality food production chain and promotion of sustainable rural development.