A woman (Darejan) smiles and sits outdoors with a German Shepherd dog

Fruitful Dreams

How Georgia’s strengthened tax system is helping entrepreneurs

A man (Achinko), left, sits on a bench playing with a German Shepherd-type dog, and a woman (Darejan), right, sits nextto them and watches, smiling.

It starts with a dream

Darejan Berdzenishvili had a dream.

She would return from Tbilisi to her hometown in Guria with her husband Achinko and dog Rocky to start a dried fruit business.

However, Guria is one of the poorest regions in the Republic of Georgia, and Darejan lacked the funding to start her business.

A view of an old stone farmhouse among trees and fields, with a chain link fence in the foreground, and high mountains in the distance

After Georgia declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the country faced years of instability and poverty. Though visitors now see many abandoned buildings in the region, it is lush with vegetation and beautiful sights with the potential to thrive once again.

A view of the Georgia landscape, with a fog-covered forest in the foreground and mountains in the background

“Khidistavi is the center of the whole earth, locals like to say,” says Darejan

The Silk Road once passed through the village Khidistavi, connecting Europe and Asia. Caravans used to stop here to hold fairs, sell European and Asian products, and buy local goods.

Looking through a window, a woman (Darejan) sits at a kitchen table, working on a laptop.

Darejan heard about a Georgian Government grant program and applied.

The program was one result of Georgia’s efforts to strengthen its tax system, so that the government could increase spending on programs and services to benefit its people.

USAID experts supported the Georgian Government in this effort, known as domestic resource mobilization.

A woman (Darejan) stands in a room, opening a drawer in a fruit drying rack, with boxes full of fresh apples behind her

Darejan received the grant she needed to buy fruit-drying machines. She returned to her hometown Guria and started her business, which she named “Skiji,” the old Georgian word for dried grapes. “It gave me a chance,” says Darejan.

In Guria, Darejan cultivated a large garden, which produces apples, raspberries, watermelons, blood oranges, mandarins, kiwis, blueberries, tomatoes, cherries, melons and mint.

A woman (Darejan) walks across a cobblestone driveway in front of a barn-like building, carrying a handful of raspberries
A woman (Darejan) stands among rows of berry plants, examining the fruit on the plants
Two hands hold four red and green apples, with a bucket of more apples below
A woman (Darejan, center) stands in an orchard on a sunny day, speaking with two men (left and right)

A Community Effort

Darejan also buys fruit from neighbors.

“There is so much fruit in the village, natural fruit, without added chemicals.”

A woman (Darejan), uses a long pole to harvest fruit from high in a tree

Creating Local Employment

She employs people from the community to prepare the fruit and package it, using handmade baskets that she buys from a local woman.

Two women (Darejan on left) sit on a low bench with a table of basket-making materials
A closeup of a woman's hands weaving a basket
Three women (Darejan on left at head of table) sit at a large kitchen table filled with basket making materials
Three women (Darejan center) sit at a kitchen counter with tea and snacks, smiling and talking

Elevating Her Neighbors

“People in my village, and in general, people of Guria are my family.”

Archinko, Darejan's husband, has an arm around her as they sit on an outdoor swing, smiling

“We are the first pioneers. People will definitely take after us,” says Darejan.

A close-up off packaged dried fruits from Darejan's farm

“When we first took our products, we gave most of it for free,” Darejan said. “We wanted people to taste and promote it. It worked.”

Skiji now sells in stores throughout the country and has international interest. “Skiji has reached a new stage,” she said. Darejan will soon need to ramp up production.

A close-up off packaged dried fruits from Darejan's farm

Plans for the future

Darejan and Achinko want to see many more businesses open in Guria to bring employment to the region.

The business renewed a sense of hope for Darejan and her family. “Skiji allowed me to return to my village, to my home where I feel happy.”

An overhead view of a farm. The building on the leftf shows smoke coming from a chimney. There is fog in the valley in the background, and high mountains in the distance.
A woman (Darejan) pets her German Shepherd dog while the dog drinks from a metal bowl

About This Story

USAID provides domestic resource mobilization expertise to more than 15 countries. The process does not necessarily mean new taxes or higher tax rates. Governments often see their revenues rise though improved audits or simplified filing processes.

As an Addis Tax Initiative founding member, the U.S. Government is committed to helping countries strengthen tax systems, mobilize public and private sector revenues, and become more self-reliant.

Georgia now collects resources from its citizens more efficiently and reinvests in Georgian programs and services.

From 2004-2017, Georgia’s state budget revenues increased by about 800 percent. The World Bank’s Doing Business Report identified a tax e-payment system as a contributor to Georgia’s impressive standing and improved economic outcomes.

USAID’s Governing for Growth project, implemented by Deloitte Consulting, provides domestic resource mobilization support in Georgia.

Photos and video by Thomas Cristofoletti for USAID