Article expired Published 29 Sep 2010 Last modified 03 Sep 2015
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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.

Year by year we see the crop yield decrease.

Gela Tetraulu, first assistant manager, municipality Dedoplistskaro

Georgia’s economy has now recovered, but because of the loss of its fertile soils wheat pro-duction in the south eastern part of the country has decreased from 60 tonnes per hectare during the Soviet period to a mere 8 tonnes per hectare today.

At the same time, the climate has warmed up (by 0.45 °C just in the last decade), average wind speeds have increased and drought periods have become longer. In winter and spring, the wind blows away the precious mineral-rich top soil, and even when rain falls, the soil does not become fertile.

"It will turn into desert within a few years if you don’t do anything" Stellan Karlsson, Nursery Specialist, Arbos.

The Shiraki valley region is now working with support from the German federal government to re-establish the windbreaks. The purpose of the project is to not to stop the wind but to slow it down so that the rate of soil erosion can be reduced.

Whereas earlier efforts to replant the windbreaks failed because the seedlings, grown using traditional methods, were not able to survive the lack of shade and strong winds, new tech-nology is succeeding. Seeds go through a selection process so that there is a much higher germination rate, and the seedlings are being cultivated in a nursery using a technique that’s helping them to develop a stronger root system. The saplings are taken to the site and planted in a line, each one with a biodegradable shell that protects it both from the wind and hungry sheep.

"What we’re going to do now is to build up these facilities for a very modern and effective plant production for the whole country." Dieter Muller, GTZ Project leader.

32,000 young trees of oak, beech, hornbeam, wild cherry, wild pear and other species have now been planted. Local farmers hope that in a few years there will be enough shade to protect their harvest, and that the region’s share of Georgian wheat will return to what it once was.

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