Story and Photos by Heifer Armenia Staff
On February 25-27, Heifer Armenia organized the second annual Youth Business Forum (YBF) with members of the YES! Youth Clubs, which were established and supported by Heifer International.
Attendees received business education, developed business plans and participated in a competition for seed money awards. The businesses ran by youth through the Young Agriculturists Network of Armenia (YANOA) project included rabbit, sheep, pig, chicken and bee breeding, as well as vegetables and non-farming rural businesses like tablecloth production, pastries and computer services.
The average Return on Investment (ROI) for these businesses was 180 percent, which is higher than the ROI traditional adult farmers have received from similar businesses. The efficiency and higher profitability can be explained by better business and marketing knowledge of the youth and more innovative approaches taught by experts with Heifer and Development Principles NGO.
This year's YBF proved the ability and readiness of empowered youth to change their lives and impact their communities. More than 80 students of YES! Youth Clubs from all over Armenia arrived in Tsaghkadzor enthused to create community business maps, discuss tourism and hospitality as an alternative for economic development, and reflect on the achievements of their small-scale business projects.
These projects were awarded seed grants during last year's YBF and, one year later, already show astonishing monetary and non-monetary results, such as the youth's increased self-confidence and knowledge.
After presenting their accomplishments, the students and trainers shared ideas and suggestions regarding youth business development and discussed future actions. They were particularly enthusiastic to share their views on how to tap into their community's rural tourism opportunities using available natural, cultural and historic resources.
Following what has already become a YBF tradition; the most successful participants were rewarded and honored. Nominees for the Best Business Plan, Best Business Girl/Boy and Best Business Peer Trainer were announced, along with others. Winners received gifts donated by Heifer's partner, UMCOR Armenia.
The YBF continues to prove youth are highly capable and a promising part of Armenian society. Avet Grigoryan from Verin Getashen, Varduhi Tovmasyan from Dalarik, Mary Margaryan from Djajur, Narek Gasparyan from Tsakhkavan, Gegham Manukyan from Khorvirap, Karen Movsisyan from Nurnus, and many others have the ability to become prominent leaders in social-economic and political spheres of Armenian society. Their roles in advancing Armenia's future must be taken seriously.