ATP visits beneficiaries of Artsakh Greenhouse Program
The teams from Armenia Tree Project (ATP) and the NGO GreenLane arrived in Stepanakert on September 26 and were pleasantly surprised to see the city so active, especially after the panic in Armenia following the recent attacks on its sovereign territory. The streets of Stepanakert were teeming with people rushing to work, cheerful schoolchildren and small businesses changing their open-closed signs.
Our team was charged with this positive energy as they made their first stop at the greenhouse at Shushi University of Technology. The university moved to Stepanakert during the 2020 war. We met students and teachers from the faculty of agronomy, accompanied by the rector.
Our partner NGO Green Lane has introduced new varieties of high added value crops, such as strawberry, goji berry, blueberry, as well as green vegetables, herbs and flowers, which are easily grown not only in greenhouses but also in the field. Some of the greens and herbs provided include oregano, lemon balm, sage, asparagus, rosemary, chives, stevia, as well as different varieties of mints: English, apple and chocolate. Beneficiaries received tools, including thermometers, watering cans, fertilizers, teaching materials and guides.
They were also introduced to the medicinal value of certain plants. Additionally, herbs such as basil, thyme and rosemary can be grown earlier and later in the year in the greenhouse, and there is a constant demand for this. They can also be kept in the greenhouse as mother plants and then propagated in late winter to be sold as container plants.
The team then traveled to the villages of Herher, Karmir Shuka and Taghavard in the heroic region of Martuni and to the vocational school named after Vladik Khachatran. In the school yard, in addition to the small greenhouse provided by the ATP, the school had undertaken to set up another greenhouse. During an interview with Artak Sargsyan, the director of the vocational school, we learned that for the past two years they have been fully invested in the renovation of the school, since several buildings were badly damaged during the war.
“These greenhouses are a new addition to our school. I always tell people that we can’t change our way of life without it changing us in some way. I want this greenhouse to not only serve as a demonstration site for students and specialists in the field, but also to become an efficient operation that will optimize plant growth and speed up harvesting and sales,” Sargsyan said. “On that note, I think growing high-yielding cut flowers will be the best bet; they are in high demand and we will significantly reduce the volumes imported from other countries,” he continued. For the greenhouse operations, Sargsyan added that the school has hired an agronomist who will tend to the plants frequently.
In the villages of Herher, Karmir Shuka and Taghavard in the Martuni region, we met our beneficiaries who shared their previous experiences in growing vegetables and asked us for clear instructions on how to deal with each type of plant that we have provided them. Many families had had good results harvesting several times since mid-summer, while others had loosened the soil in the greenhouse and were waiting for further instructions and guidance on planting for the first time. In Herher, nursery owner Armine Baghisyan showed off her greenhouse full of vegetables and her jars of pickled cucumbers and tomatoes. Baghisyan’s husband died during the 2020 war after serving in the military for over 25 years. After his retirement, he only managed to work as a village administrator for one year. When war broke out again, like many men in the village, he voluntarily joined the troops to defend the borders of the village of Machkalashen, located not far from Herher. Baghsiyan lives with his mother-in-law, grandmother Anzhela, daughter and son Levon, who chose to follow in his father’s footsteps and serve in the armed forces.
Our final stop was in the Askeran region, where we met with Regional Administration MP Karen Aghajanyan. We visited backyard greenhouse families in Khramort and Khnapat villages. In both villages, the situation is precarious, since the adversary still holds control of certain strategic heights near the villages. Despite this, many residents continue to send their children to school and kindergarten. Our delegation was amazed by the will of the heroic inhabitants of Khramort who helped their fellow citizens to renovate the roof of their house located only a few kilometers from Azerbaijan.
We were inspired by the resilience of the people of Artsakh. Despite the instability in the region, there is a sense of calm in the villages and a determination among the people to lead productive lives. The hard work of our beneficiaries over the past few months is evident in their eagerness to continue producing crops to feed their families and earn an income.