Georgia visit ‘highly beneficial’

20160202- Georgian visit to Kirriemuir'The Georgian delegation and hosts pictured at the Neverland play park at Kirriemuir Hill. ''Andy Thompson Photography for Angus Council.
20160202- Georgian visit to Kirriemuir'The Georgian delegation and hosts pictured at the Neverland play park at Kirriemuir Hill. ''Andy Thompson Photography for Angus Council.

An official delegation from the Eastern European country of Georgia voted their four-day fact-finding visit to Angus as ‘highly beneficial’.

The 17 delegates had travelled to Scotland to find out how rural development in Angus is being supported by the LEADER Programme, which provides community-led rural projects with access to specific EU funding.

“This was a highly beneficial visit for our party,” said Mariann Gelashrili, who was representing Georgia’s Agricultural Minister. “The Georgian Ministry of Agriculture is very keen to roll out a rural development programme which incorporates the LEADER Programme. As a result, it is very important for us to share the experiences of others using this programme and to find out how other areas have implemented this programme.”

During their four-day stay in Angus, which was hosted by Angus Council, the delegation visited several LEADER-funded projects, including Montrose Basin Visitor Centre, which was awarded £32,000 of LEADER funding to purchase new cameras which now transmit high-quality, live images of the Basin’s wildlife into the visitor centre.

“Projects such as this and the LEADER-funded projects at Murton Community Farm, Inglis Memorial Library, Kirriemuir’s Neverland Playpark, the Community Hub in Balkeerie and DD8 Music provided the Georgian delegation with an insight into the considerable difference LEADER funding can make to a rural economy,” said Alison Smith, head of Business Angus at Angus Council.

In addition, the delegation also found out how the LEADER Programme is delivered in Angus and attended the launch of Angus LEADER Programme 2016, which is one of 21 LEADER programmes in Scotland. These programmes are co-ordinated by the Scottish Government and overseen by Local Action Groups (LAGs), consisting of members from rural businesses and communities, supported by local authorities and other public agencies.

The South Georgian region of Borjomi has been selected as the site of Georgia’s pilot LEADER programme and is being supported by Angus LAG through a rural development project established by Mercy Corps. Ten of the Georgian delegation were from Borjomi LAG, including Dimitri Kipiani, Mayor of Borjomi. “The municipality of Borjomi is taking a very active role in the implementation of the LEADER programme so our visit to Angus was very interesting and helpful, especially our visits to the LEADER-funded projects,” said Dimitri Kipiani.

“During our time in Angus, we discovered more about the principals of the LEADER Programme and the strategies we may adopt in the implementation of this project. As we progress with the development of the LEADER Programme in Borjomi, we hope to continue to share ideas with Angus LAG - and to further strengthen Borjomi’s ties with Angus.”

The Georgian delegation was accompanied by volunteer members of Angus LEADER LAG, including Mark Cessford, Mike Strachan, Dougie Pond, Veronica Lynch and Gill Lawrie, chair of Angus LAG. Gill said: “We are delighted to be able to support Borjomi LAG as they set up their version of the LEADER system.

“Whilst there are huge differences between rural life in Georgia and rural life in Angus, the basic principles of communities seeking to provide their own solutions to development remains the same. It was fascinating to hear from the delegation how they hope to implement a similar type of community-led support for developing rural businesses.

“Meeting and discussing these issues with such friendly, open people was a wonderful opportunity for Angus LAG and will further strengthen the LEADER process here in Angus.”