A winning strategy for economic development
With the collapse of the soviet system, the lesson of self-sufficiency came quickly and harshly to Artsakh. As an act of war, Azerbaijan effectively cut off then-breakaway Nagorno Karabakh (the name was officially changed to Republic of Artsakh in 2017) from the outside world with an economic blockade that continues to this day. Since that time, AGBU has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to help the people rebuild their war-torn economy and help them move from chronic poverty to sustainable self-sufficiency.
After three decades, working in collaboration with the Artsakh government and local economists and industry experts, AGBU has developed a comprehensive nation-building strategy of its own called the AGBU Fund for Artsakh. Designed to help jumpstart Artsakh’s economy on multiple fronts, the Fund puts special focus on agriculture with two agro-centered projects, AGBU Fields of Hope and AGBU Olive Tree Orchards. These initiatives underscore three essentials for overall success: cultivating a proficient farmer community; minimizing the inherent financial risk in agriculture ventures; and respecting the necessary time it often takes for such enterprises to yield profits.
For AGBU Armenia president Vasken Yacoubian, the last point is paramount. “Working with these independent farmers reminds us that nature’s cooperation isn’t guaranteed,” explains Yacoubian. “Many conditions must be met to achieve the desired yields that put affordable food on the table for consumers and deliver ample returns for independent farmers. This is a new class of entrepreneurs. They must first feed their own families, repay their loans and reinvest for increased output and expanded markets. Reinventing the agriculture industry in Artsakh demands time and patience. Clearly, though, the long-term gains are very well worth the wait.”
Berge Setrakian, President of AGBU, agreed, saying, “The people of Artsakh are responsible custodians of a land which they, if not most Armenians, consider sacred. With a new generation of independent farmers, many with extensive experience and formally schooled in agro-specialties, the donations generated through AGBU Fund for Artsakh wind up in capable hands.”
AGBU Fields of Hope
This initiative was born out of necessity when Armenian refugee farmers fleeing the Syrian crisis found Artsakh’s climate and soil conditions suitable for transplanting the successful farming enterprises they were forced to leave behind. Today, the Fund for Artsakh not only supports these promising businesses, but also welcomes participation from native farmers seeking to upgrade their output. Fields of Hope offers them seed loans, provides free use of up-to-date agro-equipment, and allows use of a seed storage facility. This supplements the land grants allotted by the government to farmers looking to establish or expand their business.
AGBU Olive Tree Orchard Program
The clear advantages of olive trees are their strong resistance to cold weather and drought as well as the capacity to thrive for hundreds of years. This makes them a welcome addition to the numerous varieties of fruit-bearing trees that the Artsakh climate favors. The AGBU Olive Tree Orchard Program is a pilot initiative ready to break ground in Spring 2019 in the region of Berdzor. Thus far, the project is aimed at Syrian Armenian families looking to establish permanent residency within this very sensitive and strategic area. Many have benefited from the AGBU Fields of Hope program and are on board to become pioneers in this next potentially profitable enterprise, helping to position Artsakh as an olive center in the region. Each family is ready to allocate 1 hectare of land for this purpose. It is expected that in five years, 6,400 trees will produce 192,000 kg (192 tons) of olives. This will yield about 960-1280 liters of olive oil.