"Gali: Abkhazia's Frontier with Georgia"
The Gali district of Abkhazia lies in the South East of the territory, along the border with Georgia, and is home to the estimated 40,000 Mingrelian Georgians who have managed to return since the end of civil war in the early 90’s. Extremely neglected and under populated, compared to pre-war figures, post conflict reconstruction, development and investment has not reached Abkhazia’s most impoverished district. The people of Gali are scattered throughout an intricate network of remote villages, connected by often impassible roads, and have to be almost entirely self sufficient in order to survive. In truth they have always had to be like this, but the difference is that these days there is very little opportunity for anything more than mere existence. Previously a rich agricultural area producing oranges, tea and hazelnuts, many of the plantations and groves were abandoned during the war. Those who are still producing do so on a very small scale, earning barely enough money to send their children to school. To make matters worse, the recent tightening of the Georgian border by Russian troops has slowed the flow of goods and produce due to the heavy taxes they impose and the threat of arrest if one is caught crossing the Ingury River illegally. So, farmers are now forced to sell locally in Gali market where inflation and the bribes levied by local Mafia mean that prices have sunk lower than ever before. The Mingrelian people of Gali feel abandoned by both sides of the conflict. They have been left hanging in a state of limbo, acutely aware that they are living on the frontline of a dispute that has yet to be fully resolved. Their future is by no means clear, but for now they get on with life, happy because they have returned to their homeland but sad because it is not the place they remember leaving.
Christina Djologua, 14, bakes a cake while her grandmother Lamara minds baby Gigi. Tagiloni, Gali, Abkhazia.