7 May 2013
A monitoring visit was conducted in the 7 ha forest which was established in Chambarak in 2012. The project was realised at the initiative of the "Council of Deceased Soldiers' Mothers and Wives" local NGO and Shen NGO and funded by the UNDP GEF Small Grants Programme. The delegation comprised of the representatives of the donor organisation expressed its satisfaction with the successful implementation and sustainability of the project. Today we can state with confidence that in a few years there will be a wonderful forest of 7 hectares in Chambarak.
Income Generation Projects in Rural Areas
Updated on 15 April, 2013
In the beginning of the 90ies of the XX century Armenia became the first among the former Soviet republics to implement mass privatization of agricultural assets including land, animals and machinery. Simultaneously country's rural non-farm industry created to increase employment especially among women (mostly in the mountainous regions of Armenia with poor agricultural assets) has been forced to shut down under new economic conditions and new ground rules.
Said developments led to creation of an open market-oriented system comprised of more than 340,000 private small size farms (1.5 ha per farm) with over 1.3 million land parcels. However small and fragmented farms as well as application of mostly out-dated and resource-extensive farming techniques and technologies hindered efficient organisation of agricultural production. Old and dilapidated infrastructure, difficulties in marketing agricultural produce, limited access to financial services, inadequate opportunities for skills enhancement and vocational training, and poor professional extension services played a crucial role in deepening rural poverty and forced 35% of the population in Armenia to appear under the poverty line in 2011.
Today the rural poor rely on markets that are informal, often monopolised and not intended to meet their needs. It is obvious that the bulk of rural population is not well integrated into the national economy and cannot use its benefits. Under these circumstances new ideas, remedial methods and approaches were required for the improvement and recovery of the situation (Koti Irrigation Project, 2012). Over the past few years the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) introduced Making Markets Work for the Poor (M4P) innovative approach to poverty reduction in the rural South of Armenia. One of these projects was successfully implemented jointly with Shen and Intercooperation (Switzerland) in Meghri region (M4P Meghri). The central idea of M4P is that the poor are dependent on market systems for their livelihoods. Therefore, changing those market systems to work more effectively and sustainably for the latter contributes to the improvement of their livelihoods and, consequently, to the reduction of poverty.
Our strategy is to support maximum number of beneficiaries in strengthening operating value chains by applying various facilitative approaches (Apricot Value Chain in Armenia, 2012). Therefore we try to boost activities that potentially result in substantial quality agricultural produce providing higher income for the entire community. We also believe that our best contribution to the well-being of the vulnerable communities will be empowering them to meet their own needs themselves.
An alternative way to stimulate income generation at household level is collaboration among farmers, specifically organisation of cooperatives. Recently, Shen has decided to start promotion and organisation of agricultural cooperatives in some of its beneficiary communities where most appropriate conditions are in place. Based on our partner - UMCOR's experience, cooperative development is seen to be an effective way to reduce agriculture production costs, ensure permanent access to input and output markets, increase negotiation capacity of farmers and ultimately increase incomes of farmers.
"Aniv" Universal Credit Organisation
As a step towards supporting small and medium enterprises in rural Armenia, in 2000 we have launched a lending program through "Aniv" Rural Small Business Support Foundation. The initial capital of the Foundation was formed by IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) Rural Services Development Program through the Government of Armenia and Shen. As in other activities, we were offering technical assistance and advice to our borrowers as well as close monitoring for early detection of possible problems.
The goal of the revolving Fund (Aniv means "wheel" in Armenian) was to create employment and prevent emigration from Armenia by providing up to USD 15,000 loans to rural enterprises to start agricultural processing facilities, small and medium production enterprises and services. People from poorer communities who did not have access to bank credits due to high interest rates and tough collateral requirements, were "Aniv" Foundation clients. Aniv Foundation was active in Shirak, Lori, Aragatsotn, Tavush, Vayots Dzor and Syunik marzes. By 2005 over 350 loans have been disbursed with the total sum of USD 3,4 million, at 12% annual rate and 3 years period, 1500 sustainable work places have been created.
In 2006 the Government of Armenia decided that foundations could no more engage in crediting and had to register credit organizations to continue their activities. In October, 2008 Aniv Foundation, has applied to the Central Bank of the RA and "Aniv" Universal Credit Organisation was registered and is already active in Syunik, Aragatsotn and Tavush marzes.
In April 2009 the contract was signed between MCA-Armenia and UCO "Aniv" to implement the MCA-Armenia credit component. This credit component is a part of MCA-Armenia Water-to-Market project which aims to provide technical assistance to farmers by transition of knowledge and new technologies, as well as to provide agricultural loans to beneficiary farmers(www.aniv.am).
A small hydro power station built on loan. Oak casks and barrel shave a great demand. Swiss cheese production in Stepanavan.
Economic Integration of Refugee Communities of Gegharkunik marz (2012-2013)
Project is supported by EED through founding of German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
The goal of the project: The refugee population and the poor local population in 29 communities in Gegharkunik marz apply gained knowledge to improve their econcomic situation.
Poverty and vulnerability are dire in remote rural areas that are inhabited with refugees and particularly in Chambarak and Vardenis regions of Gegharkunik marz. Gegharkunik marz differs from other regions of Armenia with large number of refugees who populate small mountainous villages. Most of the refugees have fled from urban areas of Azerbaijan and have not had any experience in agriculture. Needs assessment of the population of mentioned regions show extremely low indicators of economic and social development mainly because of very low level of integration.
Gegharkunik marz is situated around the shores of the Lake Sevan where the average altitude is about 1850 meters above sea level, and climatic conditions are severe. More than 80% of the communities live at 1900 meters above sea level and higher. This implies very limited options for income generation through agricultural production. These areas are also prone to frequent natural disasters: winter frosts, hailstorms, and droughts. The main agricultural productions are animal husbandry, production of cereals and potato. The productivity of cereals and potato, however, is very low: in beneficial years, these yields generate a minimal income just hardly enough for supporting basic household needs. Moreover, in case of a natural disaster, households appear on the verge of starvation.
Major problem identified during the assessment is that the refugees are not integrated economically and because of this the living conditions are much worse as compared to other population of Gegharkunik marz. To improve the situation the trainings, workshops and seminars are organized that help refugees to believe in their own capabilities and think seriously about income generation opportunities. Participation of locals in the trainings is welcomed and encouraged. Capacity building is the main tool of the project to attract the refugees in getting involved in income generation activities. The project covers two poorest sub-regions Vardenis and Chambarak of Gegharkunik located in the south east and east of the marz.
The main objectives are:
To give new possibilities of income generation to the refugee population through transfer of basic skills
Introduction of modern methods on effective organization of agricultural production
Promotion of agricultural and veterinarian extension services,
Provision of necessary knowledge and business skills on running sole and small enterprises
To integrate the refugee and local population of target communities in social and economic aspects
To raise the computer literacy and to provide access to Internet at community centers and schools
New Strategy in Establishment of Orchards
After passing a considerable road, Shen casts an evaluating glance backwards at the way it has covered, analyzes it and defines future directions of its activities. In the result of such evaluation, it was decided to review the strategy of establishing new fruit orchards on barren idle lands. Since 1999, establishment of orchards on unused reserve lands was an important part of Shen's activity. The profits of the orchards are used for the needs of the local communities.
Apricot orchard in Lusakn, Aragatsotn, 2003, 2007, 2009
Apricot orchard in Lusakn, Aragatsotn, 2012
However, as the time passed, more favorable conditions were created for fostering rural entrepreneurship, and Shen decided to support individual farmers who have determination but do not have enough means for establishing orchards on poor lands. One can still find land plots in Armenia which are not cultivated because of their being not fertile and absence of irrigation. In the beneficiary communities where the potential exists we support farmers by ameliorating their barren and poor lands and rehabilitating irrigation systems.
Due to our new initiative in the following communities local farmers established and/or rehabilitated orchards: Berdavan - 35 ha, Ayrum - 70 ha, Shenik - 30 ha, Koti - 140 ha, Baghanis - 80 ha, Voskevan - 70 ha, Koghbavan - 30 ha, and Lusakn - 100 ha.
Stone collection. It takes hard efforts until the land is ready for cultivation.
Bed and Breakfast at the Shore of the Lake Sevan
B&Bs created in 2008 in Tsapatagh, Shorzha and Pambak villages by local young entrepreneurs that passed our trainings, successfully operate during the summer months. After passing extensive trainings in 2009 six more families from the region were involved in this activity as well. Since the pilot projects showed that letting rooms to tourists during summer is profitable, in 2012 seven more families received the loans to start B&B business.
Bed and breakfast is now available on the shore of Lake Sevan
Handicraft is Reviving in Chambarak
The project designed for women from Chambarak and nearby villages aiming at increasing income through embroidery training was successfully completed. It had started in 2005 and serves as a good example of project sustainability. A small enterprise called World of Threads was established by our beneficiaries and operates successfully.
Chambarak embroidery school is a reality
Solar driers in Sardarapat and Argina