Families in Armenia have improved their daily nutrition through the provision of beehives, sheep and chickens, which have also contributed to start of a family farm.
By Anahit Gasparyan*
October 10, 2013—With the help of Foods Resource Bank (FRB) funding, the Armenia field office of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is fighting hunger and poverty by promoting a sustainable farming model in Armenia.
Since 2011, some 80 families have improved their daily nutrition by adding eggs, honey, or dairy products to their diet. Each received three beehives, three sheep, or 15 chickens to start a family farm. The program targeted the most vulnerable and indebted families and provided them with regular training on how to successfully manage and expand their farms.
The families have found farming to be a source of hope, as it mitigates hunger and poverty, improves nutrition, and translates into better health for children and better livelihoods for adults.
Ahnidzor village is the community UMCOR Armenia targeted this year for our program, Fighting Hunger through Sustainable Livelihoods Development. The village is located about 105 miles from Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. The community is isolated from the main road, and people live in desperate conditions.
The road leading to the village borders a gorge. The lands are not cultivated due to a lack of fertilizers, irrigation water, and equipment; the high cost of fuel; and other factors. The isolation of the community and poor local infrastructure affect the prices of locally produced commodities, which are sold much cheaper as compared to products in city markets.
Prior to starting the program, UMCOR staff did a baseline survey in Ahnidzor. We had a chance to talk with villagers and assess their living conditions, in order to compile an accurate beneficiaries list. We learned that Ahnidzor families mainly barter the agricultural products they produce. They cope with food insecurity by eating cheaper food (their main meal consists of cabbage and potato) and reducing the number of meals consumed daily, which can cause irreversible damage to children and the elderly. The most difficult months for food accessibility and affordability are January through May.
The Ahnidzor village head and community members were very excited and encouraged after hearing about our project and about how FRB generates the necessary funds for it through the diligence and generosity of American farmers. UMCOR staff shared with community members a photo album left by FRB representatives during their last visit to Armenia. In it they saw pictures of FRB-funded projects and the American farmers who donated part of their own harvests to raise money for projects that improve the nutrition and living conditions of vulnerable families in other countries such as Armenia.
Shamil, 65, is one of the Ahnidzor beneficiaries. He, his wife, and their 12-year-old son, Hovhanes, live in very desperate conditions. Through UMCOR’s sustainable farming project, the family received three sheep or lambs, and Shamil, his wife, and son all took part in UMCOR trainings. Information was shared on business plan development, daily management of the farm, healthy nutrition, and other topics. Now Shamil’s family is improving their food security by including cheese and yogurt in their daily meals. They also have used the sheep fleece to make warm blankets.
With FRB funding, UMCOR helped empower Ahnidzor villagers to move toward becoming a more food-secure community. Both men and women were encouraged by the program and its results. It was inspiring for UMCOR Armenia staff to see sparkles of hope in family members’ eyes and to hear their plans and visions for the future, as we observed their step-by-step progress.
For Shamil’s family and other families in the community, sustainable farming means improved nutrition and reduced poverty through improved livelihoods. All this creates a brighter hope for future.
October 17 has been designated as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Mark this day with a gift to Armenia Emergency, UMCOR Advance #250225, and support programs such as this one that are helping to improve the lives of vulnerable people in Armenia.
*Anahit Gasparyan is the Food Security/Nutrition Department coordinator for UMCOR’s country office in Armenia.