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Story by Liana Hayrapetyan | Communications and Public Relations Officer | Heifer Armenia
Heifer helps people regain their self-sufficiency after disasters have stripped it from them. Often, smallholder farmers lack a sufficient reserve of resources, and consequently, they are unable to recover financially when disasters occur.
Sahakyan Garnik, known in his town of Spitak, Armenia, for his skills, operated a successful farm of 70 pigs. In 1988, an earthquake destroyed his barn, killed his pigs and ruined part of his house. While Garnik’s family was lucky not to be home when the earthquake hit the town, they were still devastated. Financially, Garnik never recovered. He was unable to afford to restart his farm.
He now lives with his son Vardan and Vardan's wife and two daughters. A few years ago, Vardan constructed a small barn with the hope that one day his father could begin farming again.
Vardan grows onions, which he sells at the local market to buy food and pay for utilities. Aida, Vardan’s wife, is a nurse. Her salary is hardly enough to buy books, school supplies and clothing for her daughters. The family began to participate in Heifer Armenia’s project in Spitak in 2010. Soon after Garnick joined Heifer International, his aspiration to become a farmer again became a reality, and he received two pregnant pigs.
In the spring of 2011, the pigs delivered 11 piglets. Garnik raised them and decided to sell 10 piglets for about $80 each, a very good price. He kept a female piglet to further expand his farm. Later that year, the pigs delivered 10 more piglets.
“I’m very happy for my success,” Garnik said. “All this is Heifer’s favor. It enabled me to fulfill my old dream of running a pig farm as I once used to do.”
Garnik feeds his pigs and piglets with the remnants of fruits and vegetables from their garden. To have more feed for the pigs, Vardan grew barley in the small piece of land provided by the state last year. He works hard, and his burgeoning business is becoming very profitable.
“At the moment, we have 20 piglets and three pigs,” Garnik said. “I am taking very good care of them. Heifer helped us to get stable income and stand on the path of sustainability.”
To prepare for the future and avoid a repeat of his farm's devastation from a natural disaster, Garnik uses part of the profits from the piglets to buy construction materials to renovate the barn. The other part he spends on family expenses.
Garnik is not only a diligent farmer, but also a very helpful neighbor. To provide his neighbors with water for irrigation, he constructed a small pump station to provide water for irrigating crops to his community. As his neighbors had no money to pay for the water, Garnik paid the water fee for all of the neighbors who were using the water provided by his pump. This is indeed a vivid example of practicing Heifer’s Sharing and Caring Cornerstone, which is so important for the community’s unity. As the old Armenian proverb says, “If the village gathers, they can break the wood,” meaning that there is power in unity.