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Story by Liana Hayrapetyan | Communication and PR Officer | Heifer Armenia
Photos courtesy of Heifer Armenia
Tony Robbins, an American author and motivational speaker, once said, “Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life’s deepest joy: true fulfillment.”
The Heifer Armenia team has indeed learned the power of sincere contribution by working with communities to end hunger and poverty. For 13 years, Heifer Armenia has been doing its best to contribute to rural Armenians’ well-being, providing self-reliance to rural families and strengthening Armenian villages through the implementation of community development projects. These projects are sponsored by our precious donors and realized with the priceless help of Heifer Armenia’s project holders, community leaders, village mayors and partners, who are hosted every year by the country office team at the Heifer Armenia Program Annual Conference (HAPAC).
HAPAC took place on March 4-7, 2013, in the “House of Writers” in the picturesque resort town of Tsghkadzor, Armenia. The event gathered more than 110 people, among them Heifer Armenia project holders, community leaders and partners. As is customary, HAPAC reflected on Heifer Armenia’s program achievements of the past year and highlighted prospective developments for the upcoming year.
After the opening of the conference and welcome speech, Country Director Anahit Ghazanchyan made a presentation on "Heifer’s Model for Community Sustainable Development and the Value System." The basis for this model, as Ghazanchyan presented, is an assessment of the current situation, future perspectives, planning and management, monitoring and evaluation. In accordance with this model, in order to have improved and stable social-economic conditions, rural families need relevant resources to generate food and income, to live in sound environmental conditions, and to have healthy families where all members share the work and responsibilities and are actively engaged in the social life of their community. The model anticipates well-organized communities, acting social institutions, and strategic partnerships and initiatives, as well as equal opportunities for men and women to have access to higher positions, with equal incomes and access to resources. Heifer’s Theory of Change (ToC) was presented by Vahe Sardaryan, program manager. He explained in detail the main components of the ToC and used Heifer's signature project in Armenia, Community Agricultural Resources Management and Competitiveness (CARMAC), as an example for discussion.
Another interesting presentation was made by young entrepreneurs from Tsaghkavan community, Narek Gasparyan and Aram Melqumyan, who are engaged in rabbit farming. The teens, involved in Heifer Armenia’s YES! Youth Club, received a seed grant of $100 in December 2011 and established a small rabbit farm. In 14 months the boys managed to generate AMD 275,000, or about $675, of which AMD 205,000, or about $500, was their net profit.
Anna Araqelyan, a business education expert from Heifer Armenia partner Development Principles NGO (non-governmental organization), congratulated the young entrepreneurs for their success and conducted a presentation on "Tourism as an Alternative of Economic Development in Rural Communities." Arakelyan defined the advantages of starting eco- and agro-tourism businesses. Special attention was given to establishing small rural businesses, such as bed and breakfasts, that can be run by rural families using their available resources.
The next day was devoted to the presentation of and discussions about the CARMAC project, which is being implemented by the Government of Armenia in partnership with Heifer Armenia. Heifer Armenia Program Manager Vahe Sardaryan and CARMAC Project Coordinator Sergey Meloyan shared the project's first-year results. They also presented Heifer’s ToC, using CARMAC as an example. The project covers 55 rural communities in six marzes, or provinces, of the country. The day’s sessions were fully attended by leadership and key staff of the World Bank Agriculture Projects Implementing Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture.
After the presentation, conference participants discussed the current problems community-based cooperatives face during the project implementation process. They expressed appreciation for the indispensable role Heifer serves to strengthen communities by providing necessary agricultural equipment to the cooperatives, as well as training and technical assistance.
The conference was concluded by the plenary session, which was led by Heifer Armenia Finance Manager Mariam Asoyan and her team. The session's topic was “The Basics of Financial Management of Cooperatives,” which provided essential information to the heads of the cooperatives engaged in the CARMAC project and responded to numerous questions about the legal and financial aspects of the rural cooperation.
HAPAC attendees commented that this year's event was interesting and successful, and they were particularly pleased with the conference format, which enabled them to raise concerns and fully engage in discussions. The Heifer Armenia team is thankful to HAPAC 2013 participants for their valuable contribution to the annual review of Heifer Armenia projects implemented in rural communities for just and sustainable human development.