Our project partners are at the core of everything we do, with each team being made up of dedicated and inspirational people. Restoration is a complex process and in order to be successful, it needs support from every level. Everyone from NGOs, the private sector, and governments to communities and individuals has an important role to play.
We are in the midst of an environmental crisis, so the next ten years are crucial to avert climate change and the irreversible loss of habitats and species. As a supporting partner of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the Endangered Landscapes Programme recognises that it is important for young people to be at the core of change to restore our landscapes and seascapes for generations to come. Over the coming months we will be running a series of articles focused on #GenerationRestoration and the youth that are driving change on the ground.
This week, we talked to 25-year-old Giorgi Chikorashvili, a Regional Coordinator for SABUKO in Georgia, and the organisation’s youngest employee. He works at the local level, mostly on site, to establish and maintain good working relationships with farmers and to assist them in the delivery of pasture management plans. This includes sharing the latest information regarding ongoing processes such as the pasture law and leasing procedures.
How did you become interested in restoration?
I am from the south-eastern part of Georgia, in the Kakheti region. My family are farmers and throughout my childhood I was actively involved in cow herding, milking, and making hay. During the summer holidays, I used to herd the cows from morning till night, and helped the family in maintaining the vineyards. At the age of 12, I used to go to the regional market with my father and buy and sell products on my own. My childhood was not a standard child’s life, and so I have been studying real life and relationships since childhood.
After leaving school, I completed a bachelor’s degree in ecology as well as a master’s degree in environmental protection and forestry.
Has the Kakheti region changed since your childhood? What environmental degradation have you noticed?
This is a complex question. My area is the Sighnaghi municipality, which alongside the entire Kakheti region has changed greatly since my childhood. As the area has the potential to be very productive for agriculture, the steppes have been replaced by perennial crops of olive and almonds. Now, due to the frequent droughts, the vineyards are withering. Last year there was no rain for 105 days. Windy days have also increased which favours land degradation.
The nature around us is changing, the number of birds in the field has decreased sharply due to the degradation of living environment and because of the scarcity of food. The cause-and-effect relationship is clear to me.
What inspires you and how do you stay optimistic about the future of biodiversity and the climate?
When I am in the field, I feel like I’m at home. When I look at the example of our rotational grazing schemes, how the grass cover has improved, and new tree sprouts has appeared after flooding the floodplain forest, I remain optimistic as we are learning how to adapt to climate change.
How is SABUKO working and engaging with young people?
Our organisation actively works with young people, we conduct various educational activities. SABUKO’s education department has been running education programs in connection with the projects, as well as independent study schemes.
Since 2022, 10 school clubs are functioning under SABUKO. In connection to the Kakheti Steppes restoration project, 7 – 12th graders within clubs were introduced to the film “Facing the Desert”, followed by the board game based on Chachuna managed reserve, and Q&A discussions. Several events with hands-on activities on soil erosion were held with young people.
Charismatic species from the project area, including the imperial eagle are the recurring theme of SABUKO’s educational activities. School teachers from Dedoplistskaro region and Tbilisi received training and handbooks of activities with imperial eagle as a main focus in 2018, which has been renewed and reprinted in 2022. Chachuna managed reserve and Iori valley, being the main habitat of the imperial eagle in Kakheti, the problems associated with habitat degradation and loss, are in the main focus of the handbook, which received positive reviews from teachers.
When the opportunity arises, such as international celebration dates and local events, we try linking our activities to the projects, using promotional materials and face-to-face meetings with youth and adults, as a positive way to share information about the importance of nature restoration and our working areas in Georgia. Every day we acquire and develop knowledge.
Do you think that young people feel connected to the natural world?
Yes. There are many activities and campaigns in which young people are involved. Young people are among the greatest friends and defenders of nature.
Is getting the younger generation involved important for conservation and restoration?
Without a doubt. This is a work for the future; conservation and restoration are today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.
To find out more about the Iori River Valley and Kakheti Steppes projects, visit the project pages.
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