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Story by Knarnine Ghazanchyan | Program Coordinator | Heifer Armenia
Photos courtesy of Heifer Armenia
Heifer International launched its project in Armavir in partnership with the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) in 2008, in which 115 original families received cows and sheep, and 60 more received animals from their neighbors through Passing on the Gift® (POG). This year another POG ceremony will incorporate more people into the Armavir project.
In Lernagog village, participants engage in animal husbandry and gardening. This may be surprising at first sight because the climate and landscape doesn’t seem favorable for either. However, most of Armenia has similar landscape, vegetation and climate, and farmers have to make due. Here, if you have no other way to earn a living you need to just get rid of the stones and cultivate the land to produce a garden of delicious produce.
Preparations for winter are taken seriously by the rural people. They need to make sure every necessity will be available when winter comes. Animals still go to pasture before the first snow falls, but it is not as useful as in the high season. “For this season, pasture visits are just a ‘good exercise walking’ for the animals, nothing more,” joked one of the villagers. People have to think of supplemental feeding of the animals.
Village leader Gagik Avetisyan was pleased with the results of the project. He said that all the animals and their offspring are healthy. The only problem people encountered was the high price of feed, which was partially resolved because most people had planted alfalfa seeds.
Another participating family, the Janibekyans, maintain a small animal farm. Radik, the head of the family, and his children and grandchildren take care of their animals responsibly. His farm includes a POG cow the family received from Heifer, its calf, a goat, 10 chickens, two turkeys and a dozen pigeons. When the family’s cow, Sirun, which means beauty, birthed her calf, the whole family was happy. But it’s Radik’s grandchildren who first tasted Sirun's milk and gave their opinions about the product. In addition, Radik has a diverse garden filled with all kinds of trees and plants.
Radik's neighbor, Hovsep, said, “The cow is a universal helper and feeder. It gives us meat, milk, leather…even its manure we use to dry and use as a fuel in winter and a fertilizer in spring.”
Local electrician Harutyun Hakobyan and his family became Heifer participants and received a cow named Sevuk from a POG last year. Harutyun’s wife Marine is happy the family’s table has fresh milk every day. In summer Sevuk produces up to about three gallons of milk daily, which is a good indicator for the local breed. Sevuk and its calf Astgh, which means star, are allowed to freely roam under the care of the family. Harutyun and Marine happily anticipate the upcoming POG.
All project participants agree that “people should help support each other” and continue to prove their dedication through practice.