According to the “Women’s Socio-Economic Situation Analysis in Berd Region” by C. Lucas and A. Badalyan (May 2013), about 60 percent of local women are unemployed and their land plots mainly remain uncultivated. Unemployment creates additional problems, such as decline of women’s role and in many cases economic and psychological dependence from men, that in its turn increases the risk of domestic violence.
Navur, Itsakar, Verin Karmiraghbyur and Berd communities of Tavush region were and are still economically disadvantaged with lack of employment opportunities - especially for women. This region has the highest indicators of unemployment among local women and migration among men. Women are typically expected to carry out more traditional roles especially in the regions of Armenia: household tasks and upbringing of children. Besides, having no access to income generation opportunities, financial contribution of women to their families is limited, hence they have less of a say in household spending.
Additionally, due to traditional value-system barriers, women entrepreneurship initiatives are not involved in men-led businesses. Most opportunities in the region revolve around the agricultural sector, however the energy crisis of early 1990s resulted in illegal logging and massive deforestation in the region, which not only negatively affected entire communities but also put some populations of wild berries and tree species in danger. UNDP/GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) took initiative to support local cultivation of endangered species of berries (wild blueberry, hawthorn and barberry) in these communities, as well as create alternative sources of income and employment for women.
One of such initiatives is “Berd Berry” project. The project aims to conserve these valuable plant genetic resources in Navur, Itsakar, Verin Karmiraghbyur and Berd communities, with the aim of securing employment opportunities among local women. Through the financial support of SGP and with the help of “Berd Women Resource Center” (BWRC) Foundation, women cultivate wild berries for promoting local eco-production. BWRC is committed to women empowerment and see this as vital to driving economic growth and development in Armenia.
Thanks to this project and the support of UNDP/GEF Small Grants Programme and BWRC, 25 women are now direct beneficiaries and have available land to cultivate berries. These women can also generate income by being engaged in jam and tea assortment production. The project also involves 80 indirect women beneficiaries who took part in the trainings and workshops within “Berd Berry” project and have the potential to become participants in sustainable collection and processing of herbs and berries. These women have gained knowledge and practical skills on the cultivation of wild berries and marketing of the product. Beyond this, at least 12 local women have gained employment within the scope of the project in collecting, drying and packing of “Berd Berry” products. This number is expected to grow in the future and bring more independence to the women of the region.