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On 16 September, cooperatives from the ENPARD project and farmers from the OASI project had the opportunity to present their products, including cheese, buckwheat, broccoli, organic asparagus, berries, and tea during the fourth “Harvest Festival: Rural Life and Traditions” in English Park, Yerevan.
The festival allowed more than 120 groups (farmer groups, cooperatives, individual farmers and entrepreneurs, as well as local and international organisations) from Armenia, Georgia and other countries to present their products, grown and processed in rural areas, to the citizens of the capital, Yerevan. The festival serves as a unique platform for agricultural stakeholders and potential donors to meet, find new markets, exchange experience and engage in new collaboration. The European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD) and Organic Agriculture Support Initiative (OASI) were the key sponsors of the festival.
ENPARD is funded by the European Union (€2.4 million) and the Austrian Development Agency (€1 million). The three-year project was launched in Armenia in January 2015 with the aim to support sustainable agriculture in the country. OASI, also funded by the European Union and co-founded and implemented by the Austrian Development Agency, in collaboration with the Armenian Ministry of Agriculture, promotes ​​organic agriculture in Armenia.

ARS_6005The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, congratulated Armenian farmers on their products at the event: ‘This festival is more proof that rural communities in Armenia are rich in tradition. The EU is committed to supporting the development of agriculture in this beautiful country. Thanks to ENPARD, Armenia can have its own broccoli, buckwheat, honey and quality cheeses. In addition, we are supporting the development of organic food through the OASI project. September is an “organic month” thanks to the dedication to our Austrian partners. We believe Armenian agriculture has a bright future and be an engine for growth. We want to help Armenian farmers to provide the European market with delicious apricots, pomegranates and other delights. We hope very much that livelihood expectations in Armenian communities will be fulfilled’.

ARS_6019The Director of the International Projects Department of the Austrian Development Agency, Robert Zeiner, echoed the Ambassador’s thoughts on the event’s importance: ‘Congratulations from our side! Harvest festival is a celebration in two ways: we are celebrating the year’s harvest, and our results, the fruits of our joint efforts. I am sure we will have a bright future together’.

ARS_5986The Armenian Minister of Agriculture, Ignati Arakelyan, welcomed the diversity of produce on show: ‘Such a festival proves that villages feed cities. It was organised for residents of the capital to understand and experience agricultural achievement, including the results of projects implemented by international organisations, as well as the successes of farmers and women’s cooperatives. This is a good opportunity to purchase products that cannot yet be found in shopping centres in Yerevan’.

European-type cheeses will soon have a ‘Made in Armenia’ labels and have the chance to appear in European markets. The EU-funded ENPARD Armenia project is supporting Armenian farmers from different marzes to produce new types of cheese and find new markets. 6 high-value cheese-production facilities have already been established in different Armenian marzes.
The EU is also implementing ENPARD in other Eastern Partnership countries. Experts from Moldova and Georgia have arrived in the country to find out more information on ENPARD’s work and results in Armenia and to share experience and best practice. On 28 September, during their 3-day stay, they visited the village of Mets Mantash in northern Armenia, where one of the six cheese-production facilities is located.
The ‘Mantash Milena’ cooperative is being managed by a group of women farmers. This cooperative produced Armenian-sort cheeses for a long time but was not able to transport its produce to Yerevan; they could distribute only in their own marz. Mantash Milena was able to construct a new cheese-production facility by receiving new equipment since they became the ENPARD beneficiary. Construction and the sanitary inspection are over and soon it will start production!
img_0130Siranush Andreasyan, Leader of Mantash Milena, praised the support she received from ENPARD: ‘We could only dream about this kind of modern equipment. It will help us in the production, as well as in pasteurisation, cutting, steering, and curving. It will make the whole process faster, as we always used our hands. Now the process will be automatised and will increase the quality of the cheese produced. Once the gasification will be done in two weeks, we will have our first European-type cheese. There are five women in our cooperative and all of us will be involved in the production process’.
img_0018Luiza Sevuni, Manager of ENPARD’s Cheese Value Chain, promised to have new cheeses ready before the New Year celebration: ‘For cheese production we have two groups in Shirak marz, one each in Vayots Dzor and Gegharkunik marz, and two in Aragatsotn as well. Now that the groups have finished construction, we have provided equipment and are now supporting gasification. After that, our special expert will teach the cooperatives how to make European-type cheeses. All the food security measures have been taken into account, which will help us to get certification for the cheeses; after that we can export them without any obstacles. The production will start in October, then there will be a maturation process of 2 months, after which the cheeses will be ready for distribution’.