Irina Vasilyeva has been chosen as one of the 17 Food heroes by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Agency (FAO), as an example of how access to technical knowledge and innovation can empower small farmers to become agents of change.
Food Heroes are recognized for their commitment to providing food to their communities and beyond.
He spoke to the UN before World Food Day, marked annually on October 16.
“My name is Irina Vasilyeva and I live in the old village of Vartsikhe, Bagdati Municipality, in western Georgia. This is an agricultural community and the families here have been involved in agriculture for centuries.
My husband and two children have also managed to earn a living from farming, however, as COVID-19 Pandemic restrictions on tourism and restaurant business increased last year, I struggled in vain to sell my wares at a market in Kutaisi, the main city in western Georgia.
Fortunately, our situation has improved thanks to the support of FAO and the European Union, who brought new farmer field schools and demonstration plots to the region and specifically to my people, highlighting innovative agricultural methods.
I heard that FAO agronomists were visiting a nearby seedling production facility, so I attended the meeting and showed them my farm records. I always record what I do on my land and I told them that I wanted to learn how to improve the quality of my crops.
I learned that modern agricultural practices, including drip irrigation, mulching, and bedding, could greatly improve the production of cucumbers, tomatoes, and salad herbs in my three greenhouses.
I didn’t know that my plants used so much fertilizer. With drip irrigation and better calculations, I now use less. It is an important cost saving measure.
Costs are crucial, especially for Georgia women farmers who, like me, want to establish an independent source of income.
Working with FAO has also taught me that there is nothing in agriculture that a man can do and a woman cannot.
Now I can grow lettuce in winter without greenhouse heating. This off-season production allows me to avoid competition with other farmers. And the high-quality products that I am now growing along with the reduced costs have helped me overcome the economic difficulties of the pandemic.
More local women in my village are now moving into agriculture to supplement the family income.
As a food hero, I am happy to share my knowledge and experience and that my farm is used as a model for agricultural training.