CSOs and Civic Activists Meet Local Residents in Guria
On October 17-18, the USAID Civil Society Engagement Program and Ozurgeti Center for Civic Engagement organized meetings for civic activists, CSOs, and journalists to discuss pressing issues with locals in Ozurgeti and the villages of Shroma, Natanebi, Nasakirali, Melekeduri and Naruja.
One topic covered during the discussion was the lack of registration and mass sterilization of stray animals, both in Ozurgeti and wider Georgia. The latest NDI survey indicated that problems with stray animals rank among some of the highest local concerns. This problem is particularly severe in Ozurgeti municipality. There are several locations in the remote areas of Guria where dogs are often abandoned and left to die. Many of these dogs survived thanks to local activists’ efforts, but individual initiatives and the dedication of several activists are not adequate to solve this growing problem.
Citizens of Ozurgeti also spoke about poor transportation services, the problem of severe contamination in one of the settlements of the city, a poor sewage and water supply system, and wells and rivers drying up due to stone and sand quarrying.
Unemployment, poverty, and poor infrastructure were also the focus of discussion during the meetings in the villages. The harsh economic situation in the region was exacerbated by massive damage to the most recent nut harvest. People in Shroma and Kvemo Natanebi spoke at length about extreme poverty, poor road and water infrastructure, and problems related to transportation. They noted that because the public school in Zemo Natanebi is closed due to infrastructural problems, students there attend school in the nearby village of Kvemo Natanebi. Because school transport makes only one route per day, primary school students must wait for the senior students to finish their classes in the evening before returning, which makes the day inordinately long for the young children.
The CSOs, activists, and journalists provided consultations to locals during the meetings. As a follow-up to the visit, they identified the top concerns in need of urgent action and agreed to undertake joint efforts. The meetings’ participants included individual activists and representatives of the Animal Project, Democracy Defenders, Chiatura of the Future, CENN, Radio Liberty, Georgian Public Broadcaster, Guria Civic Centre, House of Progress, and local civic activists.