The largest European Union (EU) funded assistance project in the field of agriculture in Armenia was officially launched in Yerevan on 04 March. The project is titled the “EU Green Agriculture Initiative in Armenia” (EU-GAIA). It is funded by the European Union (€ 9,7 million) and co-funded and implemented by the Austrian Development Agency (€ 2 million), the operational unit of the Austrian Development Cooperation. The Government counterpart of the project is the RA Ministry of Economy. The project is partially implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Armenia.

During the official launch of the project introductory remarks were made by the EU Ambassador to Armenia Andrea Wiktorin, RA Deputy Minister of Economy Arman Khojoyan, Head of International Third-Party Funding Unit of the Austrian Development Agency David Muckenhuber and UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Armenia Mihaela Stojkoska.

“We are happy to support the EU Green Agriculture Initiative in Armenia. It confirms our commitment to the rural sector in Armenia with over five years of EU support to agriculture through ENPARD and OASI projects where we also cooperated very successfully with the Austrian Development Agency. EU GAIA is in line with our goal to contribute to the realization of shared and balanced inclusive growth in the Northern regions of Armenia through boosting green agriculture and enhancing local value added.”,- said EU Ambassador to Armenia Andrea Wiktorin.

The event was held in the presence of representatives from the Government, community heads, international organizations, civil society organisations, agribusinesses, media and farmers and producers from different Marzes of Armenia.

The Deputy Minister of Economy of the Republic of Armenia Arman Khojoyan delivered a welcoming speech: "This project is in line with the Government-approved strategy in the field of agriculture, which has a common vision: to develop a knowledge-based, highly efficient competitive agriculture that will bring added value and innovation, enhance the competitiveness of the Armenian economy and stimulate economic growth."

According to the Deputy Minister, agriculture should be viewed not as an occupation for farmers, but as a profitable business. "We must make every effort to create a sustainable environment for the prosperity of new agricultural businesses, so that they can become the driving force for promoting this type of business orientation," he said.

Agriculture is a major source for employment in Armenia and contributes to almost 15% of its GDP. The country has high potential for green and organic agricultural production, which is believed to contribute significantly to improve rural livelihoods in a sustainable manner in the future.

 “Austria has had a successful history of developing organic agriculture in Armenia. Through the former OASI project over 45 producers benefitted from the enhanced technological capacities and access to markets. We strive to continue this good practice with the generous help of the European Union to support small-scale farmers in agriculture, and we want ensure optimal use of natural resources while preserving the environment and biodiversity at the same time. We also put a strong focus on ensuring inclusive approach in agriculture, which means that vulnerable groups, including women, will be given a special attention”-  said David Muckenhuber, Head of the International Third Party Funding Unit of the Austrian Development Agency (ADA).

“We very much appreciate and proud for excellent and strategic partnership between the Government, EU, ADA and UNDP and the opportunity to be engaged into Green Agriculture project.  With a spirit of partnership and collaboration among all partners, we are confident that we can make this important, but difficult project a success” said Mihaela Stojkoska, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative.

About EU-GAIA project

EU-GAIA project will support the development of sustainable, inclusive, innovative and market-based agribusiness particularly in the northern Marzes of Armenia – Shirak, Lori and Tavush. The project has a budget of € 11.7 million and will be implemented over the course of three years.

EU-GAIA has a strong focus on technical assistance and capacity development to the relevant stakeholders for ensuring green, inclusive and rights-based agriculture development. A big portion of the project support will be rolled out directly to Armenian producers and processors through a call for grant applications. Grants will be available for smallholder farmers, producers and agribusinesses in general. Modern infrastructure and green technologies will be established at the demonstrative farms. Selected agribusinesses will, therefore, be more competitive in local and international markets, through access to equipment and services. This will also lead to the creation of better employment conditions in the rural areas.

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