Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Heifer International Project Will Revitalize Armenia’s Farms

Heifer International Armenia is distributing agricultural equipment to small farmers, giving them the means to stay on their land and improve their livelihoods. It’s the first part of the Community Agricultural Resource Management and Competitiveness (CARMAC) project, a partnership with the World Bank and Armenia’s Ministry of Agriculture.

CARMAC’s objective is to reverse environmental damage caused by unsustainable grazing, increase the economic viability of small farms through infrastructure improvements, and increase productivity to gain access to more markets. The $22.7 million project aims to assist 78,000 people.  CARMAC has a $10.1 million agricultural component, with Heifer providing $3.7 million. Heifer International Armenia has already distributed three tractors and five balers to several farming cooperatives, enabling the farmers to make the best use of their land and provide better fodder for livestock.

Heifer International Armenia has worked with more than 8,000 Armenian families in the past 11 years, building up family farms through gifts of cattle, buffalos, pigs, chickens, rabbits, sheep, bees, worms, tree seedlings and organic produce. The projects first create food security for the participating families, and then surplus product is sold to earn money for education, medical care and other necessities.

Gagik Khachatryan, director of the Agriculture Project Implementation Unit at the Armenian Ministry of Agriculture, presented the baling equipment. Khachatryan said that without Heifer’s contribution, it would have been impossible to ensure rural community engagement and successfully realize the CARMAC project.

By the end of the project, about 200 pieces of agricultural equipment are expected to be placed within 55 rural communities in Armenia. The modern equipment, along with more careful use of pastures, will boost overall productivity and efficiency of small livestock farms. This will help position local producers to fill Armenia’s growing domestic dairy need and to become more competitive regionally.

As the project work begins, its significance for rural communities is increasingly evident. During previous decades, rural unemployment in Armenia has forced many people (mostly men) to leave the country to find jobs abroad. CARMAC is designed to bring back hope to farming communities, providing rural families with a chance to stay together and build their future in their homeland.

Heifer’s mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. Since 1944, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Heifer is currently working in 40 countries, including the United States, to help families and communities become more self-reliant. For more information, visit 1-800-696-1918.

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