“You are lucky,” my taxi driver tells me. “You have arrived in the best time in Georgia!”
After two weeks here in Tbilisi, I have to agree. September to November brings The Velvet Season; when the sun is no longer scorching hot, but still warm enough to enjoy swimming, local parks and outdoor cafes without the huge summer crowds. Georgia is blessed with abundant crops of the season; apples, berries, peaches, plums, tomatoes, and of course, grapes. Did you know that Georgia claims to be the oldest wine producing region in the world? With over 500 indigenous grape varieties, wine and wine making are a huge part of Georgia’s unique culture.
Check out Kevin Mihelic, KF12′s excellent post on Georgia’s recent economic and political struggles. The government has been working hard to attract foreign investment and progress is evident in the construction of modern buildings and upgraded services all over Tbilisi, however around 30% of all Georgian’s are living below the poverty line and much of the agriculture in Georgia is limited to subsistence farming. With approximately 55% of Georgia’s labor force working in agriculture, I was happy to learn that Kiva’s lending partner Credo has some innovative products for rural borrowers, including crop insurance loans at a ZERO percent interest rate.
Georgia has yet a long way to go to stabilize its economy, but even in the aftermath of the 2008 conflict with Russia and the global financial crisis, conditions in Georgia are slowly improving. Corruption is a thing of the past. Clean water systems and electricity (at least in the capital city of Tbilisi) have been modernized. My taxi driver friend was right- I am lucky to be here at this time. Come November, the icy winter winds may blow, but I hope The Velvet Season, and a time of warm growth, continues in Georgia for a long time to come.
DJ Forza is a Kiva Fellow working with Credo in Tbilisi, Georgia. To learn more, please visit Credo’s partner page, join the Georgia lending team, and keep an eye out for Georgian loans on Kiva.org.