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During the Soviet era, Dedoplistskaro in south east Georgia was the country’s main production area for wheat and sunflower seeds. That came to an end in 1991 when Georgia became independent and Russia cut off its energy supply. To survive the cold winters, the people resorted to cutting down trees for firewood, stripping the countryside of the windbreaks that protected the crops and soil from the harsh desert winds and provided a natural habitat for many species of animals and plants.