Story and Photos by Knarine Ghazanchyan | Program Coordinator | Heifer Armenia
Translated by Liana Hayrapetyan | Communication and PR Coordinator | Heifer Armenia
The Milk for Money partnership project between Heifer Armenia and Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD) not only assists Armenian rural families in generating income, but also keeps family members together by reducing the need for migratory work.
In the fall of 2012 and spring of 2013, the project provided cows to 67 Armenian families and established veterinary service centers for livestock owners from the communities of Stepanavan, Azatan and Sarnakunk. The veterinary centers provide services, equipment, medicine and trainings for participants.
The Papikyans, one of the 67 families to receive a cow, live in Stepanavan, which is famous for its pastures and meadows. This family of six includes 46-year-old Zakar and 39-year-old Roza, their two sons and one daughter, and Zakar's mother, Granny Margo, who is 83. Zakar and Roza's sons serve in the army and their daughter studies at the agricultural college. Zakar travels abroad for seasonal work and is the only family member employed.
The family's primary source of income comes from one hen, 10 chicks, 12 rabbits and a small garden behind their house. Each year, the garden gives them about about 660 pounds of apples, pears and plums and about 440 pounds of cucumbers, tomatoes, beans and pumpkins. The Papikyans also own pasture land, which provides about 800 bales of the best quality highland hay per year. They previously sold the bales for 1,500 Armenian drams, or about $4, each, because they could not afford to buy their own livestock.
Roza and Zakar were extremely happy to receive a cow from the Milk for Money project. "Nothing is so much important for a rural family than owning a good milking cow," Roza said. "The cow is a source of milk, cheese, butter, curds and matsoun (Armenian yogurt) for us. We no longer have to buy dairy products, which are so expensive. The cow is an invaluable source of income. It's the main feeder of a rural family."
Roza named the cow Tsaghik, which means flower. Tsaghik delivered a calf on Easter, so Roza decided to name the calf Zatik, which means Easter in Armenian. Roza and Zakar give good care to their cow so her offspring can be passed on to another family in need.
"Our cow is a very good one," Zakar said. "It provides us with 16 liters (about 4 gallons) of milk daily. My wife prepares cheese out of Tsaghik's milk and we sell it. This is very profitable."
Zakar decided not to leave his native land for seasonal work any longer because the cow supplies as much income as he had previously generated abroad. Instead, he envisions increasing his family farm and generating income not only from dairy products, but also from meat. He is sure that nowhere is better than Stepanavan.