by Steve Denne, Chief Operating Officer
In concept, a Heifer project is simple: engage communities, mobilize smallholder farmers, train them and provide livestock. Next, we support them in a number of ways and monitor until the project is complete. In practice -- in real places like the Armenian villages of Arpi, Areni, Norashen and Varser that we've visited on this trip -- a Heifer Project is a complex mix of relationships, expert support, a variety of physical inputs, encouragement, troubleshooting, and management. Although the Heifer Armenia team is very talented, it cannot make a project happen on its own. No Heifer country program office can. Heifer works with many partners.
Thus Pietro (our VP of European programs) and I have joined with Heifer's Armenia country director, Anahit, and her team to explore new opportunities with key partners. On Tuesday -- the first full day of our visit -- we met with Gagik Khachatryan, director of the Project Implementation Unit of the Government of Armenia/Ministry of Agriculture. We discussed an important collaboration in the context of a major World Bank-financed project (we'll be sharing more about this soon).
We also met with the director, Gagik Sardaryan, and deputy director, Sevak Manukyan, of the Center for Agribusiness and Rural Development (CARD). CARD provides services to small farmers that include small loans, sales of equipment and business development. CARD is a key partner in a new dairy value-chain project called, "Milk for Money." Afterward, we met with the executive director of Ashtarak-Kat, Stepan Aslanyan. Ashtarak-Kat is the leading milk and dairy product processor and distributor in Armenia. It is a key partner in a dairy value chain project in a different part of the country.
Finally, we concluded the day with dinner with Andrzej Szmidtke, the First Secretary for Economic Affairs for the Embassy of Poland. The Government of Poland finances foreign development work through Polish Aid, its development cooperation agency. Through the support of Heifer Poland, Polish Aid awarded some of its first grants to fund Heifer Armenia projects.
On Wednesday, we were honored with an audience with His Holiness the Catholicos of All Armenians, the spiritual leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The Church is a major historical, cultural, spiritual and social force in Armenia. Heifer Armenia has collaborated with the Church in specific ways, but more generally, it shares a common mission to meet the needs of the hungry and the poor. The Church is also a founder and supporter of another partner, the Armenian National Ecumenical Church Loan Fund (ECLOF). After the Catholicos, we met with the General Director, Tigran Hovhannisyan.
Our trip to Armenia so far has been a rich opportunity to help in the building of villages of partners to bring a greater impact to the villages of small farmers across Armenia.
To read more about Heifer's work in Armenia, click here. You can also read about our Armenia team here.