Story and Photos by: Marina Kazaryan, Project Assistant, Heifer Georgia
Do you remember
The days of Karaleti,
The blue arch of mountains –
~Galaktion Tabidze, Georgian poet
The village of Tkviavi is only 40 km away from Karaleti, so poetically described by Galaktion Tabidze, a famous Georgian poet. When Heifer Georgia first entered the region, the sky over the mountains was not so blue, but rather grey, both literally and figuratively. The armed Russia-Georgia conflict of August 2008 swept over the region and left the villages devastated.
“We had to hide in the fields for several days,” says Laura Kareli. “There was no one to take care of the cattle, and they just wandered away. We knew this was happening, but there was nothing we could do to stop them without endangering our lives.”
Like most families in the area, before the conflict, the Karelis were engaged in animal husbandry. When conditions changed, they had to adjust to the new environment. The family took up horticulture, requiring investments of fertilizer and equipment, which the family couldn’t afford. The harvest was poor and scarcely enough to provide a living for the family of seven.
When Laura’s husband Tamaz learned about Heifer’s project, he thought it was worth trying. The newly created association considered his case, and soon the Karelis had a new family member – a beautiful black cow. This was a turning point for the family. Their daily diet became enriched with milk and dairy products. With proper treatment, the cow started providing more milk, which the family sold to receive additional income. Their monthly income used to equal GEL (Georgian Lari) 150, or approximately $90. Today that amount has nearly tripled.
The Karelis improved their living conditions and paid for a connection to the central gas pipeline. Now, instead of a wood oven, they cook with a gas stove. Due to soggy firewood, which is expensive to begin with, and very little fuel, Laura used to spend a whole day cooking porridge for her children. “It was my dream to have gas to cook delicious food fast for my family. I have another dream – to have better heating in the house, since we have
very severe winters here, and there is not enough firewood to heat the entire house. We will try to save money from the sale of cheese and install gas heating also. Thank you for giving us a chance for a new and better life,” Laura said.
The Karelis’ cow delivered a calf, who lives with its mother in a shed. Both animals receive special care from Tamaz’s father Shota and mother Tsitsino. They look after the calf with great care and, in two years, will pass it on to another indigent family affected by the conflict.
Tamaz became an active member of the Farmers’ Association, and today he serves as its deputy chairman. Laura takes care of the household and their three children: sons Shota, 20, and Giga, 19, and daughter Anano, 4. Named after his grandfather, Shota Jr. is enlisted in the army. Both brothers want to continue their education. Anano attends kindergarten. She says the milk the cow produces is the best.