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2014 marks the 70 year anniversary of Heifer’s work to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth. The experience and expansion of Heifer over those 70 years have meant the difference between life and death for the families we’ve served. And we have no intention of stopping until the other 805 million people who are still hungry can join the ranks of farmers who now have healthy food, an income, an education and hope.

It will take innovation, creativity, flexibility, learning from experience and past momentum to create relevant programming that addresses the needs of farmers in their own context. This means expanding beyond the animal—beyond the cow, we like to say—and into new, innovative ways of connecting farmers to meaningful opportunities.

In Armenia, we’re doing just that.

Beginning in September 2013, Heifer Armenia partnered with the Fuller Center for Housing-Armenia to develop a project called the “Advanced Rural Development Initiative” (ARDI).  This five-year program is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The program is an innovative initiative with the goal of increasing rural employment by supporting rural communities.

More than 5,000 people will benefit from ARDI. The initiative will be focused in 48 rural communities of the Syunik, Vayots Dzor and Lori provinces in Armenia.

What types of interventions are we talking about?

The program has some pretty advanced goals—with interventions focused on building local economies and values chains in the areas of dairy processing, fruit processing and rural tourism. Sound familiar? Heifer knows dairy. Heifer knows agriculture. And now, Heifer is learning all about rural infrastructure through its partnerships with organizations like the Fuller Center for Housing. That’s how we’re thinking beyond the cow.

The program will help at least 500 new entrepreneurs, specifically youth and women, and support other rural entrepreneurs in developing their own businesses through trainings, consultancy and targeted investments.

ARDI will also support 15 existing businesses including rural farmers’ cooperatives to improve their working processes and create additional employment opportunities. Altogether about 125 start-up companies (of which 100 will be youth businesses) with more than 1,000 short and long-term rural employment opportunities will be created as a result of the program.

Heifer has conducted assessments in 14 target communities in the Lori and Vayots Dzor provinces with a goal to identify and map the strengths of each community and involve multiple in-depth focus group discussions with community members.

We are taking “teach a man to fish” to a whole new level. 

Based on the results of the assessments, eight to nine rural communities with the highest potential for economic growth and job creation will be selected for further investments. Then those communities will develop specific action plans to tap into their strengths, knowledge, experience and current infrastructure to develop sound dairy processing, fruit processing and rural infrastructure-related activities in their community.

There is great work ahead during the coming years with this initiative. ARDI will work with rural farming communities. It seeks to improve the farmers’ connection to the local markets by providing them with access to information, news ways of communicating and various construction projects meant to improve access and infrastructure.

For a very long time, people living in these areas haven’t felt any outside interest in who they are, least of all how they maintain or improve their livelihoods. After hearing about Heifer and the possibility of this initiative, things began to change. Community involvement from rural families has consistently proved to be high in all phases of implementation and planning. People are showing up for meetings and speaking out. Just like Heifer projects all over the world for 70 years, they’re shaping their own future through community discussions and group planning. Now, for these people in Armenia, there is a sense of hope and excitement.

Sometimes that’s the most important thing Heifer brings to the table: hope. Hope that people can take power over their poverty, not through a handout, but a hand up into the 21st century.

Read about our other work in Armenia in World Ark magazine.

The ARDI program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this publication are the responsibility of ARDI and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

Post submitted by Armen Grigorian | Development Manager | Heifer Armenia



Jessica Ford

Jessica Ford serves as the Global Communications Manager for Heifer International at its headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas. Ford joined Heifer in 2007 and soon transitioned into the executive office as Manager of Operations and Assistant to the COO. In 2012, she was relocated to Heifer's country office in Peru, as part of Heifer's first leadership development program giving her the unique opportunity to dive head first into Heifer's work "in the field" for a year. Now she is in Arkansas with her family where she loves watching her son play baseball, reading, rowing crew and drinking Dr Pepper.