UNDP Focuses on Sustainable Livelihood for the Socially Vulnerable
Geghamasar and Pambak communities are located on the southeastern shore of the Lake Sevan and are bordering with Azerbaijan. Until 1988 Geghamasar was fully inhabited by Azeris but, as a result of a home exchange scheme implemented in November 1988, Armenians from the Lernayin Jagir village of the Shamkhor district of Azerbaijan settled here. The community consists of 430 households.
The majority of Pambak community’s residents were displaced from Zaglik village of Azerbaijan. Pambak community residents (135 households) have refused to receive the lands after the privatization and returned those in a mass scale due to complete absence of necessary agricultural input, lack of possibilities and difficulties for land cultivation. Currently, only 48 community households are involved in land cultivation, 34 of which on rented lands.
After Armenia’s independence, because of the absence of quality agricultural inputs, obsoleteness of agricultural machinery and lack of financial resources of rural farms, majority of arable land belonging to these communities have turned into natural pastures (arable land is left non-cultivated and only the weed grown on the plot is mowed down). Meanwhile, the cattle breeding potential of these villages, compared to Soviet times, is currently utilized at around 50% rate. The main reasons for the reduction of the livestock are the low levels of food availability, livestock yield, difficulties connected with marketing of milk, and absence of artificial insemination.
To address the socio-economic challenges in these bordering communities, UNDP in Armenia, in partnership with UNHCR, UNICEF, UNFPA and UNIDO, is in a process of implementing a rural community development project - “Sustainable Livelihood for Socially Vulnerable Refugees, Internally Displaced Persons and local families in Geghamasar and Pambak communities of Gegharkunik region of Armenia.” This two years project, funded by the UN Trust Fund for Human Security, was initiated in April 2009 and is aimed at improving the quality of life in the targeted communities through strengthening the capacities of local self-government bodies for strategic planning and improving the skills, as well as providing opportunities to around 600 vulnerable households for farming and non-framing income generation activities.
It is worth noting that the principal goal of the project is to implement activities designed to increase agricultural productivity and, thus, incomes in these rural communities. Since wheat and fruit production, as well as cattle breeding are the competitive advantages of these communities, the project envisages improving the quality of life and boosting income of the residents through cultivating wheat in the unused arable land and planting fruit trees, as well as developing cattle breeding. During the project implementation phase, UNDP supported the two communities to develop 2009-2012 Participatory Strategic Community Development Plans which were approved by the Community Councils. These documents were developed using participatory methodology that involves community members in the planning and later on in the implementing and monitoring processes. About 600 target families from Geghamasar and Pambak communities were selected, their skills and needs were identified and necessary trainings on farming were provided to them.
- In the course of the first year of project implementation, the incomes of community residents have increased by about USD 50,000, i.e. USD 170 for each household;
- According to Mr. Harutyun Azaryan, head of Pambak community, provision of agricultural machinery resulted in increase of wheat productivity by 20-30%, while rural households income increased by 10-20%.
The goal of the project could not have been materialized without provision of needed agricultural production means and machineries to the beneficiaries. UNDP procured and distributed 100 tons of wheat seeds and 62 tons of fertilizers, as well as established a pool of agricultural machinery in Geghamasar community. Pambak and the surrounding community have received 145 cows, as well as artificial insemination equipment and quality semen. Here also a similar pool of agricultural machinery was established. During the upcoming months UNDP plans to distribute 6,000 fruit tree seedlings to Pambak community residents, as well as to the nearby rural communities.
The establishment of agricultural machinery pool, provision of high quality wheat seeds and fertilizers led to the increase of the level of food security and availability, as well as to the rural households’ income in both communities. In the course of the first year of project implementation, the incomes of community residents have increased by about USD 50,000, i.e. USD 170 for each household. “In the subsequent years availability of high quality seeds of own production will more than double the incomes,” said Mr. Garegin Begyan, head of Geghamasar community.
According to Mr. Harutyun Azaryan, head of Pambak community, provision of agricultural machinery resulted in increase of wheat productivity by 20-30%, while rural households income increased by 10-20%. The pool will also serve the needs of neighboring communities, as well as it will become an income generating scheme for the community both in terms of employing mechanizations and generating profit, and providing services to neighbor communities.
Within the framework of the project, UNDP established Community Based Organization (CBO) responsible for managing and monitoring the implemented projects in Geghamasar and Pambak communities. The establishment of an institutional structure has proved its necessity for ensuring the sustainability of the activities envisaged within the framework of the initiative. The CBO, on the basis of a specially elaborated and approved scheme, has adjusted the machinery work schedule and service prices. The CBO organized the overall work of the machinery pool so that to ensure safe and constant operation of the machinery.