Heifer International launches new efforts in Armenia to build the rural economy
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Oct. 12, 2011) – Heifer International, a worldwide development nonprofit, is scaling up its efforts in Armenia to save rural farms and give Armenian men a reason to come home and build farm businesses with their families.
During the Armenian Genocide, relief workers from the U.S.-based Church of the Brethren offered assistance to Armenian survivors robbed of food, water and even hope. Inspired by the work of his congregation, Dan West, the founder of Heifer International, later served as a relief worker in the Spanish Civil War. He became frustrated by the inadequacy of offering food rations. “What these children need is not a cup of milk; they need a cow,” he thought. West saw that the greatest possible gift is the dignity of being able to provide for oneself and one’s family.
Since 1944, Heifer International has worked in more than 120 nations. Heifer projects work with participants to empower entire communities for years to come. Heifer International is among the most respected international development organizations, with a track record of success that is second to none. Families who receive gifts of livestock and training from Heifer are required to “pass on” their animal’s first offspring, or its equivalent, to another family in need.
Heifer Armenia has worked with more than 8,000 Armenian families in the past 11 years. Fifty-eight projects have built up viable 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.
The challenges for small farms in Armenia are formidable: livestock health is poor, and pasture management is practically non-existent. The biggest problem, according to Heifer Armenia Director Anahit Ghazanchyan, is the rampant emigration of Armenia’s rural men, leaving farms under the care of overworked mothers and the elderly.
However, there are solutions to rural Armenia’s problems. Pietro Turilli, Heifer International’s Vice President for Central and Eastern European programs, says, “Armenia’s small farms have tremendous potential to not only feed the people of Armenia, but to become real market players, which would dramatically reduce poverty.”
Heifer International’s efforts to reach more families in Armenia attracted the interest of the World Bank and Armenia’s Ministry of Agriculture, which invited Heifer Armenia to be a partner in a large-scale “Community Agricultural Resource Management and Competitiveness” (CARMAC) project. CARMAC is focused on reversing environmental damage created through unsustainable grazing, increasing the economic viability of small farms through infrastructure work, and increasing productivity to gain access to more markets. The project will work in six marzes (regions) with a total target population of 78,000 people.
We would love to introduce your readers to the work that Heifer is doing in Armenia and elsewhere. We can provide more information on the projects, including a map of project locations, as well as accounts of project successes.
Heifer Armenia’s country program director, Dr. Anahit Ghazanchyn, will be in the U.S. from October 18 to October 28 and will be available for interviews. Also available is Heifer International Vice President for Central and Eastern European programs, Pietro Turilli. Please contact us if you’d like more information on Heifer in Armenia.