Migration and agriculture in Georgia

While the importance of agriculture to Georgia's GDP has declined, the sector continues to play an important role - contributing to the livelihoods of around half the population. Despite being one of the government’s top priority sectors for development, agriculture suffers from a lack of access to finance, infrastructure, inputs and entrepreneurial skills. Many individuals have emigrated from agricultural households in Georgia to seek work in neighbouring countries. This chapter assesses the role played by migration in Georgia’s farming sector, as well as the influence of agricultural policies on migration. The chapter presents analysis of data gathered from the IPPMD survey of 1 089 farming households across the country. The findings have policy relevance in terms of the role of government support to the labour market to fill shortages opened up by rural emigration, how remittances can be harnessed more productively, and the value of return migration.

Economic and social development in many countries has historically been accompanied by a move away from rural areas, and thus from agricultural activities. In many cases this movement tends to be internal, from rural to urban. However, rural areas have also been the source of emigration to international destinations in Georgia. Reflecting this trend, agriculture once played a vital role in the Georgian economy, but has decreased in importance since independence. While part of the decline can be attributed to a diversification of the economy, the sector is also held back by poor infrastructure, insufficient access to inputs and finance, and a lack of post-harvesting activities. Many individuals have thus emigrated from agricultural households in Georgia to seek work in neighbouring countries, although exact numbers are unknown. This - plus the links they have maintained with their households and home country - has brought change to the agricultural sector.

There are several components to this change. First, the departure of a member decreases the availability of labour within the household. Second, emigrated members may remit part of their earnings, which can ease household financial constraints and encourage productive investment: remittances can represent a vital life source for rural regions. Third, emigrants may return with new ideas, key contacts, and financial capital, which they can put to productive use, providing a general boost to the sector.

This chapter is divided into four parts. The first part provides a contextual overview of the agricultural sector in Georgia and the data collected for the IPPMD project in 2014. The second part discusses the impact of migration on Georgia's agricultural sector, drawing on the IPPMD survey analysis. The third part reviews the links between agricultural policies and migration outcomes, such as the decision to leave, remit and return. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the policy recommendations.

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