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On 14 July, a second buckwheat processing factory was opened in the border community of Bavra in Shirak marz. The ‘Nor Hatik’ factory is part of the European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD) ‘Producer Group and Value Chain Development’ project.

DSC_3607ENPARD is funded by the European Union (€2.4 million) and 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. The project’s governmental partner is the Armenian Ministry of Agriculture. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are implementing ‘ENPARD Armenia Technical Assistance: Producer Group and Value Chain Development’ project working with 53 primary producer and processing cooperatives. UNIDO and UNDP work together to strengthen and establish producer groups and engage them effectively in value chain addition.
In 2016, primary producer cooperatives were provided with buckwheat seeds and fertilisers, and the processing cooperatives were provided with buckwheat processing factories. As a result, 520 hectares of buckwheat were planted, with an average of 1.2 tonnes of buckwheat harvested per hectare. Now farmers can process their harvests at the processing cooperatives for sale and thereby increase incomes. Local and international experts have provided farmers with training on how to sow buckwheat, fertilisation, harvesting, storage processing, buckwheat-related beekeeping, and honey production.
551 farmers from 67 communities have been involved in 33 cooperatives across Shirak, Lori, Aragatsotn, Kotayk and Gegharkunik marzes to provide buckwheat to factories in Bavra (Shirak marz) and Tsovagyugh (Gegharkunik marz). The construction of Nor Hatik has been financed by the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund. It brings together 28 cooperatives from Shirak, Lori and Aragatsotn marzes. Soon, buckwheat from Nor Hatik will enter the Armenian market.

DSC_3572Representatives from partner organisations were present at Nor Hatik’s opening event and participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Armenian Deputy Minister of Agriculture Armen Harutyunyan congratulated all the partners: ‘It is an important day not only for the cooperatives that have gathered due to this factory, but for Armenian agriculture as a whole. I remember two years ago we started discussions on ENPARD, on which directions we would focus. We prioritised two directions: promotion of cooperatives and the development of alternative crops that could bring higher profitability. Now we have solid results which offer motivation for the next steps’.

DSC_3657Head of Nor Hatik cooperative and buckwheat-processing factory Koryun Smbulyan thanked all the partners: ‘I am thankful that so many people have gathered to congratulate us. We have 15 years of buckwheat processing experience, but we achieved this only as we have so many partners. We have had a good harvest, have great facilities, which means we can enter the market with a quality product’.

ARS_2119On 7 April the EU Delegation to Armenia invited everyone to a cultural evening to celebrate Motherhood and Beauty Day within the framework of the global #BeBoldForChange campaign. The evening started with a photo exhibition by the EU-funded projects dedicated to women beneficiaries. Guests had a chance to learn about the projects being implemented in Armenia aimed at empowering women in all spheres and to vote for the best project. The Head of EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, also attended. After poring over the photos, he gave his vote and was hurried to the stage to officially open the second part of the evening.

ARS_2262The Ambassador congratulated women: ‘7 April is a wonderful tradition, and we are happy that, on this particular day, we can present to you our activities and celebrate women empowerment’s together with all project stakeholders. For us, women’s day is not a single day in the year, we think about women and their role in society every day. We encourage the women of Armenia to take a more active role in politics, business. Let me be frank with you – we are not happy with the current situation. I counted the low number of women just elected to the National Assembly, and it makes me very unhappy. I hope that, during the next elections, the situation will change. The same refers to other spheres. We all speak about reforms in Armenia but let me speak plainly – Armenia will not progress without more women in positions of authority’.

ARS_2400Armenian singer Lilit Pipoyan performed a live concert for attendees, and the evening concluded with the announcement of the winner of the photo exhibition. The winner was the ENPARD technical assistance project: “Producer Group and Value Chain Development”. In the photo, Mrs. Anush, a member of the women’s agricultural cooperative of Gargar village (Lori Marz), is harvesting the first yield of fresh, healthy broccoli. The cooperative is involved in the primary production and sale of non-traditional, high-value vegetables. As an ENPARD beneficiary, the cooperative has been provided with broccoli seeds, cultivation tools and greenhouses and with practical training on vegetable cultivation and marketing.

The ‘Ritart Group’ which sells under the ‘Ritea’ label, has been producing and selling herbs since 2014, but only in Yerevan and in Russia. Registering as an agricultural cooperative 2016 and becoming an ENPARD beneficiary has opened up new opportunities. ENPARD enabled the cooperative to update their production facility and make necessary repairs.On 22 November a dried fruit and herb production facility was opened in the village of Geghard in Kotayk marz.

2After the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the facility, Armen Harutyunyan, the Armenian Deputy Minister of Agriculture, highlighted the importance of Armenia’s cooperation with the EU in agriculture: ‘We started our negotiations with the European Union and the Austrian Development Agency three years ago. The core focus of ENPARD is to develop agriculture and we are deeply grateful for this support’.

3Frank Hartwich, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) Project Manager for Industrial Development, praised the actions taken by the cooperative: ‘ENPARD is not an activity of one or two people, it’s an effort of people who work as a team. We are celebrating a very beautiful moment now, but this needs to continue. It will be a lot of work, but don’t be afraid. As long as you are committed, ENPARD will stay by your side to help you to build a viable and sustainable business’.

4Rita Martirosyan, the Head of Cooperative, welcomed ENPARD’s support: ‘The project has contributed to job creation, we have received very modern equipment, and we have established links with other agricultural cooperatives. As we have both good staff and a good production facility, we will work efficiently to produce dried fruit.We will launch a new label, ‘Rifruit’, in 2017. ENPARD will also help us to start export processes’.

ENPARD is a three-year programme, for which implementation began in January 2015. ENPARD supports the establishment of new agricultural cooperatives, strengthens existing cooperatives, builds business capacity, increases production volumes, aids product development, upgrades technologies, and helps to develop strategies for marketing and added value post-harvest. It is funded by the European Union and the Austrian Development Agency, and is being implemented by UNIDO and United Nations Development Programme.
The ‘Ritart Group’ cooperative is the sixth which ENPARD has supported in the dried fruit and herb value chain. These cooperatives are located in Aragatsavan, Byurakan, and Katnaghbyur in Aragatsotn marz, Dprabak in Gegharkunik marz, and Arevshat in Shirak marz.

There are 18 active, certified, organic agricultural producers in Armenia which are being supported by the EU to find new markets. 29 September 2016 marked the start of these projects – these fall within the Organic Agriculture Support Initiative (OASI), which is funded by the European Union and co-funded and implemented by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA). OASI also announced additional support for Armenian small farmers and farmer groups.
img_1272Among these beneficiaries is Suren Harutyunyan: ‘I have been producing teas and oils for many years, and I wanted to export the products to Europe. But, I saw no interest in my products because of high competition. I was told that these same products would be popular if they were organic. I started to produce only organic agricultural products and now I export these to Germany, Finland, Switzerland, and France. With the help of OASI I will get new and more modern equipment which will boost my production and allow me to export to more countries’.
img_1282Tigran Ghazaryan was also one of the 18 grant recipients: ‘I do not have an agricultural education, however I think that I am a successful farmer. For 10 years I have produced a large variety of berries. Now with this support I’ll increase my income and I hope to export berries’.
John Barker, the International Aid/Cooperation Officer of the EU Delegation to Armenia, talked about the EU support for agriculture: ‘The EU is committed to developing Armenian agriculture. Now we are doing it through our ENPARD and OASI projects. I know that the requirements to achieve organic certification are not easy, but not impossible. I really encourage you to take part in this new call for proposals, as we want as many farmers as possible to become certified organic producers. This will give them more opportunities to be able to sell their products in Armenia, Europe and even the USA, where there is a large Armenian Diaspora.’
Armenian Minister of Agriculture Ignati Arakelyan noted that Armenia had great potential for organic agriculture and that his ministry would continue to help Armenian farmers achieve better results. Developing organic products should increase profitability and new potential markets.
Managing Director of ADA Martin Ledolter mentioned that Austria is among the top 3 countries in the world for organic produce. OASI will help Armenia to develop further organic agriculture and promote support small-scale farmers to boost production, market better and find new markets.
Certificates for the 18 grant projects were awarded to the beneficiaries. Those farmers who want to apply for the next call have a deadline of 24 October 2016 at 16:00.

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’.

The EU remains a steadfast supporter of the Armenia’s sustainable agricultural development. The largest of the EU funded projects in this sector is ENPARD, a three-year programme implemented by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the UN Industrial Development Organisation, and the UN Development Programme.
ENPARD’s third stakeholder meeting took place on 27 September 2016, aiming to present and discuss the project’s recent developments and achievements.
120x200 rollup mapAs part of the project, 51 training courses on business-orientated cooperation have been delivered in 122 communities across all marzes of Armenia, involving 667 participants, of which 227 are women. Training courses on cooperative establishment and business skills development have been organised for 41 primary production groups (more than 600 farmers), which later received support to develop their own business plans. 34 buckwheat production groups, 4 groups of non-traditional vegetable production, 6 high-value cheese cooperatives and 6 dried fruit and herb cooperatives have received support from the project in the form of agricultural inputs, greenhouses, drip irrigation systems, equipment, and assets. 2 buckwheat hulling factories are being constructed and will soon begin operations in Tsovagyugh and Bavra. By the end of year 2, primary fruit production groups will receive agricultural machinery; 1 group of berry producers will be provided with berry saplings and a drip irrigation system.
“Agriculture is not a thing that can be done in two seconds. Agriculture is people, agriculture is families, communities that need our help. Within this project we have already established cooperatives, cultivated new products and brought them to market – this is just the beginning”, – said John Barker, International Aid/Cooperation Officer of the Cooperation Section of the EU Delegation to Armenia.
The newly appointed Armenian Minister of Agriculture, Ignati Arakelyan, spoke about agricultural legislation: ‘Within ENPARD we have not only established cooperatives – a big added value success for farmers – but also have introduced legislation on cooperatives. However, we must continue to take steps and create conditions to strengthen and develop cooperation among farmers so they continue to create successful cooperatives’.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture Armen Harutyunyan stated that ENPARD would be continued, and that there was already a preliminary agreement with the European Union to start a new €10 million project in 2017. Another EU-funded project co-funded by the Austrian Development Agency is also ongoing, targeted at developing organic agriculture in Armenia.

The history of Armenian agriculture dates back thousands of years; the fertility of Armenian soil is legendary. However, a rich harvest is not enough – you need to find a market and consume the harvest at the right time.
Green Lane, an Armenian NGO, has organised the ‘Rural Life and Traditions Festival’ to bring this produce from different marzes to and exhibit it in Yerevan. The festival is supported by the Armenian government, the municipality of Yerevan, and the financial assistance of the EU.
‘This festival is not only about marketing and advertising products produced in rural areas in Armenia, it is an occasion for all Armenians to be proud of their agriculture and witness the potential of this sector of the economy. We in the EU Delegation believe that Armenian agriculture has a bright future; the philosophy underpinning the EU’s engagement through ENPARD is that agriculture in Armenia can be a very powerful engine for growth’, – said the EU Ambassador Piotr Świtalski.
14492393_1823025571263428_4280893982913460197_nGnel Mkhitaryan from Aragatsotn marz brought more than 40 types of his products and talked about his engagement with EU projects: ‘I have been producing high-value products for 10 years, but they were not popular in Armenia and I had problems selling them. Many people in Armenia have not heard about broccoli, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, or kohlrabi. Since taking part in the EU’s OASI project, I now have the opportunity to take part in training, learn more about organic agriculture. I have now applied for certification. I have not been using fertilisers for many years but when I get the certificate my products will be considered officially “organic”’.
14433006_641789732648478_1525038997027052568_nSiranush Andreasyan from Shirak marz is a leader of the Mets Mantash cooperative, a cooperative of 5 women who produce cheese. She brought the cooperative’s cheese products to the festival and sold them all: ‘Before ENPARD we were producing Lori and Chanakh cheeses. Now, with the support of the EU, we will produce European type high-value cheese. Everything is being prepared and we have the equipment. As soon as we resolve some gasification issues we will start production – we are being taught how to use these new technologies by experts. Usually we sell our products only in our marz, but now we want to export it to Yerevan and even beyond’.
Did you ever think you would ever see Armenian broccoli, artichokes or even cheese in European supermarkets or food markets? This fantasy is now coming true due to the support of the European Union.

The European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD) supports 41 cooperatives involving more than 600 farmers to process high-value agricultural products in Armenia. These products include buckwheat, cheese, dried fruits, and herbs. This has been possible through funding provided by the European Union, the Austrian Development Agency, and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).
On 21 June 2016, five farmer groups presented their business plans to the coordinators of the ENPARD “Producer Group and Value Chain Development” technical assistance project. The groups were selected from the project target marzes of Shirak, Gegharkunik, Aragatsotn, Vayots Dzor, Kotayk and Lori. Additionally, the coordinators presented a value chain analysis and current trends in Armenia.
The value chain presentation demonstrated how smallholder farmers will operate two buckwheat hulling plants using advanced equipment provided by the project. This has given 34 cooperatives from five marzes of Armenia the opportunity to process and market buckwheat produce and increase their income.
John Barker, the International Aid/Cooperation Officer of the EU Delegation to Armenia, stated the importance of the project: ‘ENPARD is a project for Armenian farmers and I am very happy that they receive real support from this project. I am a farmer from England and I know about the importance of agriculture. There are many good activities within the project, particularly supporting producer groups and cooperatives’.
Moreover, the speakers presented how farmer groups will operate six new project-funded, high-value, cheese-production facilities to make cow and sheep cheese similar to Gouda, Roquefort and Feta for domestic and export market sales. The speakers also spoke about how six dried-fruit and -herb production units will process raw materials through a closed production cycle and use advanced technology and electrical dryers.
ENPARD will also help to develop branding and marketing strategies for high-quality products from Armenian cooperatives. Buckwheat production with advanced hulling/cleaning equipment and marketing will enable farmers in areas which primarily only produce wheat and potatoes to grow higher-value crops to meet national and international market demands. The implementation of these business models will lead not only to increased earnings for producers, but will create employment along the value chains.

During the week of 8-12 February 2016, 40 farmer groups in Shirak, Lori, Kotayk, Gegharkunik and Aragatsotn marzes presented their agricultural business plans for production of buckwheat, non-traditional vegetables, fruit and berries. The farmers had developed their business plans over the past 2 months supported by experts from the EU-funded “European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development” (ENPARD).
Producer groups in Lori introduced their business plans on 10 February. Three of the eight groups were all women. Alvard Davoyan from Vardablur village gave us some insights in why she and the other women in her group had joined: ‘When we had decided to take part in this project, we first did some research on products. We learned about the health benefits of broccoli and chose it. We are five women in our group; however, when our production starts, we will need 20 more women for the field work so others in our community will benefit too’.
ARS_5000Speaking to John Barker, the EU Delegation project manager he shared that the objective is to help Armenian citizens: ‘As a very large proportion of them live in villages, we are designing agricultural projects. We started this project one year ago – we’re not just working with farmers, but also with the Armenian Ministry of Agriculture to help to develop its capacities. That said, today we have seen the real results of our support at the farm level’.
Babken Babayan is ENPARD Armenia’s Technical Adviser on Producer Group and Value Chain Development and he shared how farmers are selected: ‘During the first stage we received about 200 applications from different production groups. Now we are in the final phase, during which the best business ideas are selected. The teams will receive cash and other support to put their ideas into practice and develop their businesses’.
In Vanadzor, where the presentation took place, 8 business ideas were presented. Each business plan was uniquely designed and reflected the local geography and weather conditions, the team sizes, available resources, other group characteristic and support from others in the communities. The farmers, confident and optimistic, presented the agricultural profile of their communities, the projections of their production, marketing, co-funding and financial plans, cost and profit estimations as key elements of their business plans.
Hrair Yeghubyan from Mets Parni and 14 other farmers from his community decided to invest in buckwheat production; however, they need an EU grant to extend their production: ‘I have lots and lots of experience in agriculture, and I know that agriculture cannot be developed without support. In the Soviet period our community was very developed, but now we don’t have any agricultural infrastructure. From our research I know that Armenia imports several thousands of buckwheat annually, which means that there is a good market for it’.
The production groups will receive agricultural inputs (seeds, fertilisers) and necessary equipment (machinery, tools) for the first year of production from the ENPARD. Further down the line, producer groups will be supported to register as agricultural cooperatives and institutionalise their activities, as well as receive agricultural inputs to start production.
ENPARD is a 3-year project financed by the European Union that supports sustainable agricultural development in Armenia. One of its components, “Producer Group and Value Chain Development”, is being implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with top-up funding coming from the Austrian Development Agency. The business plan presentations in February 2016 illustrate the support to agricultural cooperatives and engage producer groups effectively in value addition.

The launch of the EU-funded “Organic Agriculture Support Initiative in Armenia” (OASI) project took place on 15 December 2015. This project will help to develop the potential of Armenian organic agriculture. The budget of OASI is €3.3m and will be implemented over the course of three years.
ARS_0112The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Antoni Świtalski, underlined the importance of agricultural development for Armenia: ‘The EU has two main reasons for supporting agriculture in Armenia. The first is that we believe that agriculture has the potential for growth and development for the country. Armenia still needs to build capacity to develop agriculture. There is also a very big gap between the capital and rural villages. For Armenia to move forward, it is imperative to try to close this gap. Through our activities and engagement we want to help Armenians to consolidate social coherence. We are happy to support OASI, as it confirms our commitment to the rural sector in Armenia, and will complement support that is already being provided through the EU-funded ENPARD programme, on which we are also cooperating very successfully with the Austrian Development Agency’.
Armen Harutyunyan, the Armenian Deputy Minister of Agriculture, stated that Armenia had great big potential for organic agricultural production: ‘Organic agricultural development is a priority defined in the Sustainable Agriculture Development Strategy of the Armenian Ministry of Agriculture. It aims to support farmers and agribusinesses to invest in organic agriculture, increase production, explore new international markets and ensure the availability of organic products locally’.
This project is specifically aimed at increasing the local value-add of Armenian organic products, as well as at assisting the higher efficiency of relevant public and private institutions. It will support the Armenian Ministry of Agriculture to create a clear and enabling legal environment for organic producers and processing in line with international standards. OASI will also strengthen extension services for the promotion of organic technologies and support educational institutions through the development of agricultural curricula.
A large portion of project support will be rolled out directly to Armenian producers and processors through a call for grant applications. Small grants are available for smallholder farmers seeking to start, diversify or expand organic production, while bigger grants will be available to already established organic farmers, cooperatives and processors to enhance productivity and market access.