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The Vayots Dzor region of Armenia is beautiful year round. Rust-colored cliffs covered with fruit and decorative trees line the Arpa River that links Yelpin, Chiva, Areni and Arpi villages together. In spring, the scent of white and light pink blossoms blend harmoniously with the buzz of bees. In summer, the green fruit gardens and bushes are lush with harvest. The autumn turns the trees into a sea of painted leaves, and winter is outstanding when the surrounding cliffs and rocks covered with snow shine in the sun as if the Mother Nature sprinkled the land with diamond dust.

The village of Arpi, one of the famous villages in Vayots Dzor, has been involved in Heifer Armenia's Peace to Our Homes Regional Cooperation umbrella project since 2002. As per the project’s framework, five families from Arpi each received a cow. As the years passed, several pass-on circles have been fulfilled, growing the project to include more and more families. One of those new families that received a cow as a gift from their co-villagers, is the family of Hasmik Khachatryan, a 58-year-old widow who lives with her son Martin, 28, daughter-in-law Ani, 25, and two wonderful grandchildren, little 2-year-old Hasmik and newborn Vahan.

Ani provides her children the nutrition they need with homemade dairy products from their heifer's milk.
Ani provides her children the nutrition they need with homemade dairy products from their heifer's milk.

Before receiving the cow as a gift, the family generated income mainly through horticulture. The Khachatryans grow fruits and vegetables and sell their harvest on the main road of the region or in the local market. The family also owns 15 hens, which lay fresh eggs they use for family meals. With the income the family used to receive, the Khachatryans could hardly make ends meet. They would buy fresh milk from their neighbors for little Hasmik, but a lot changed after receiving their heifer. When the cow delivered her calf, the family started to milk about 2.5-3 gallons each day, part of which they used to prepare fresh dairy products such as cheese, matsoon (Armenian yogurt) and curds. The spongecake prepared from their homemade matsoon became little Hasmik's favorite dessert. When Hasmik's baby brother Vahan was born, the happiness of the family was doubled: a calf and their long-awaited son were born in the in the same year!

Help provide a family like Hasmik’s with the nutrition their bodies need to grow.

In about a year, little Vahan will become another consumer of the milk and fresh homemade dairy products rich in calcium, which is so useful for the growing bodies of the children. It is no surprise that Hasmik, Martin, Ani and little Hasmik are happy to have animals in their barn: the cow provides the family a stable source of income and, most importantly, a source of nutrition!

The Armenia landscape
The Armenian landscape is framed by rocky cliffs.

The success in Arpi continues to grow. Our project leader in Arpi community is Zemphira Harutyunyan, a diligent and helpful woman who is doing her best to keep the community united and empowered. During all years of project implementation Zemphira has been very devoted to the work she was doing within the project. Only three years after the start of Peace project in Arpi, Heifer Armenia established a rural YES youth club in the framework of its Young Agriculturists Network (YAN) project. As the YAN project ended, the youth club was funded by Young Agriculturists Network of Armenia (YANOA) project and the club continued to record further success. Both the adults and young members of the community continue to do their best to develop the socioeconomic life of Arpi.

The proven success and activism of the community has played an important role in involving the village in the Advanced Rural Development Initiative (ARDI) funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Fuller Center for Housing Armenia and Heifer Armenia. With the help of ARDI, the community will further improve of the fruit value chain. The program intervention will help farmers to connect the market, ease the process of selling and/or processing their harvest and increase income of rural families.

Story and photos by Knarine Ghazanchyan, Program Coordinator, Heifer Armenia
Translated by Liana Hayrapetyan, Communication and PR Coordinator, Heifer Armenia