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By Karine Matevosova | Program Coordinator | Heifer Armenia
Translated from Russian
The Vayots Dzor region, located in southeast Armenia, is a land of gorges (dzor is Armenian for gorge). The mountains fall smoothly into gorges, making captivating scenery and a favorite attraction for many years. People who visit Armenia make it a point to see the wonderful mountains, prehistoric caves, rivers and lakes found in this picturesque place. With almost no forests here, locals are proud to have one of the most beautiful countrysides in the South Caucasus. Additionally, the honey produced in this area is considered to be one of the tastiest.
Archeological excavations have shown that people have lived in Vayots Dzor since the early Bronze Age. Passed on from one generation to the next, its timeless, natural beauty remains part of Armenia's history. Notable landmarks in this region include a famous old bridge, the Noravanq Monastery and the Jermouk resort.
The opportunity to work with the tasty honey of Vayots Dzor motivates many people to apply to join Heifer Armenia's beekeeping project, a popular program that started in 2011. The beneficiaries are students at Giteliq University (giteliq is Armenian for knowledge) in the small town of Yeghegnadzor. With the intention that beekeeping would enable them to pay their tuition and generate extra income, Heifer Armenia specifically chose students for the project.
The students involved in the project are fastidious about the care of the bees. Most of the participants live in the villages, and many have the support of their parents, grandparents and other relatives. Extended family members often work with the students because beekeeping is not an easy task. Knowledge and experience are necessary to make the hives prosper. As time goes on, the students are building relevant skills, which helps them realize higher honey yields and, as a result, increased revenue. All the participants attend Heifer’s trainings and, the more they learn, the better they are able to care for the bees.
Lilit Khachatryan, one of the most active project participants, is a fourth-year student at Giteliq University. In addition to managing her studies and beekeeping, Lilit attends all of Heifer's trainings and makes the best use of the facilities offered in the Yeghegnadzor Business Resource Center and Syunik NGO. She is gradually becoming more competent in beekeeping. This success is due, in part, to support from her father, Tigran Khachatryan, an experienced beekeeper. Despite his busy work schedule, he has found time to teach her the details of beekeeping.
“Thanks to the project and the help of Heifer Armenia, we have a chance to keep our small bee farm and contribute to the income of the family,” Lilit said.
Another member of the Heifer family is Gevorg Markosyan, a student of the faculty of economics at Giteliq University from Vernashen community. Like Lilit, he received five beehives in the spring of 2012, attended the beekeeping trainings organized by Heifer Armenia, and is now fully able to take care of his bees. Gevorg’s family consists of four people, including his mother, father and brother. He has been able to get a reasonable amount of honey, alleviating the burden of paying his tuition fees from the family budget.
Another great example of a student businessman is Vahe Vardanyan, who lives in the Jermouk community. He studies at the University and is engaged in beekeeping. He has been quite successful for a first-time beekeeper. After receiving five beehives from Heifer Armenia, he managed to increase his number of hives to six, harvest around 66 pounds of honey, and sell 33 pounds for 45,000 Armenian drams, or about $110. The revenue went toward paying Vahe’s tuition.
Weather conditions have not been favorable for beekeeping. Bees are known for being very hard to take care of and require specific conditions. However, the project participants of Vayots Dzor managed to harvest rather high yields, despite the weather. Heifer Armenia supported the project participants with technical advice and trainings and made sure that everything was going well with each of the student beekeepers.