The rural people of Georgia have been experiencing lots of suffering since their independence after the disbanding of the Soviet Union. The agricultural system changed radically after the markets collapsed and privatization created around one million small farmers. These farmers had resorted to subsistence farming, where all they typically farmed was corn, potatoes, and wheat.
However, livestock production and crop yields went down because of the farmers’ lack of resources to buy inputs. Compared to the era before Georgia achieved independence, the total agricultural yield of Georgia had nearly halved in 2004.
The common family in Georgia consumes over 70% of what it produces and upwards of 80% of the rural poor in the country completely relies on their own farms to sustain their lives. Even though over half of their labor force works in agriculture and farming, this sector produces less than 20% of the country’s gross domestic product.
The majority of families in rural settings are living at the lowest levels of subsistence with no way of escape or way to earn more money to invest in reconstructing their lives. The income that the rural parts of these countries receive is not enough for them to do anything with, the unemployment and underemployment rates are extremely high and the crop yield is very low. These people are extremely vulnerable, with nearly 45% of the population living beneath the national poverty line.
Rural households that are mainly taken care of by women with children are especially vulnerable to poverty in Georgia. The economic and social problems in the country have caused the previously improving rights of women to wear away. These women are generally dominated by men in the households, being viewed as homemakers, even though they technically have equality through the constitution. The women in Georgia also usually have lower wages and less opportunities for employment, which truly traps them in their homes.
UNICEF and government officials of Georgia agreed to a joint program of cooperation to improve children’s rights and to try to bring them out of poverty. According to UNICEF, “the percentage of children living below the national poverty line increased 25% in 2011 to 27% in 2013, as social spending was more focused on other groups.” Extreme poverty in children is still higher than the rest of the population, though it has been reduced in the last few years.
There is a new emphasis in the country being put on foster care and group homes being implemented so these children can escape poverty and lead better lives. The government of Georgia says how the improved family environment can make a change in a child’s life overnight and that the childcare system to come will be great.
Since 2005, the number of children in state care has dropped significantly from over 4,000 to only 150 because of Georgia’s shuttering 36 of the 41 childcare institutions in the country. About 80% of these children came from families that were still alive, but that were in such bad poverty that they could not afford to care for them anymore, but fortunately, these childcare centers were there to save their lives.
– Kenneth W. Kliesner
Sources: UNICEF, The Messenger, Rural Poverty Portal
Photo: Daily Mail