Norway Gives $1.2 Million to Armenia Reforestation Project

YEREVAN, Armenia, March 15, 2012 (ENS) – The Armenia Tree Project’s 18-year-long effort to reforest the Caucasus country with tree planting, environmental education, and sustainable development was rewarded this week with a $1.2 million grant from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Since 1994, the nonprofit organization, which is based both in Yarevan and Massachusetts, has worked to combat desertification in the biologically diverse but imperiled Caucasus region. Over 3,500,000 trees have been planted and restored and hundreds of jobs have been created for Armenians in seasonal tree-regeneration programs.

Planting trees on deforested hillsides in Spitak area of northern Armenia (Photo courtesy Armenia Tree Project)

The Norway funding will provide partial support for tree planting initiatives in towns and villages throughout Armenia, an expansion of reforestation programs in northern Armenia, maintenance of recently planted forests, environmental education programs that train teachers and inspire youth, and community training for sustainable forest management.

Armenia Tree Project launched a new program in 2011 known as SEEDS, or Social, Economic, and Environmental Development for Sustainability. It has allowed the organization to build capacity in its reforestation programs while improving results through a greater emphasis on community development and investing in social capital in the areas where ATP is planting trees.

“One of the primary objectives of our partnership with the Norwegian government is to mitigate the impacts of climate change,” explains SEEDS Program Manager Vardan Melikyan, “and we plan to do this through raising awareness about conservation issues, planting trees to promote sustainable development in Armenia, and fostering a sense of personal commitment about the importance of environmental stewardship.”

In 2011, the SEEDS Program planted 186,785 tree seedlings on community lands in Fioletovo, Jrashen, Katnajur, Spitak, and Tsakhkaber in Armenia’s Lori region.

The SEEDS team also improved survival rates by clearing grass around thousands of seedlings that survived their first growing season.

Armenia Tree Project managers, from left: Community Tree Planting Program Manager Arthur Harutyunyan, Forestry Manager Ani Haykuni, Nursery Manager Samvel Ghandilyan, Environmental Education Program Manager Manya Gevorgyan, and SEEDS Program Manager Vardan Melikyan (Photo courtesy ATP)

“Over the past 17 years, ATP has been quite successful at getting things done on the ground in Armenia, and this was made possible through the support of the Diaspora,” said Melikyan. “We believe this grant from Norway demonstrates an investment in our track record and commitment to excellence, and we hope it will inspire others to join in support of our mission.”

ATP’s stated mission is to assist the Armenian people in using trees to improve their standard of living and protect the environment, guided by the need to promote self-sufficiency, aid those with the fewest resources first, and conserve the indigenous ecosystem.

“We have ambitious plans for 2012,” said Forestry Manager Ani Haykuni. “ATP plans to establish new forests in partnership with the communities of Saratovka and Sverdlov, which have already provided nearly 80 hectares of land for tree planting.”

The Armenia Tree Project has been working with local partners to create small community forests. Haykuni says that towns and villages located far from forested areas are given special attention in this program, since they are desperately in need of green spaces.”

The seedlings for ATP’s reforestation programs are grown in the Mirak Family Nursery in Margahovit Village and in backyard nurseries in the Getik River Valley. These newly planted forests are established with oak, pine, ash, apple, and pear seedlings which are native to the region.

“In addition to planting trees, ATP’s SEEDS Program also addresses community development and socio-economic issues in order to mitigate some of the root causes of deforestation and unsustainable land use,” says Melikyan.

“This includes providing jobs for hundreds of workers in the Lori region for seasonal tree planting, and partnering with other organizations who can bring their development expertise to communities where we are working.” Melikyan says, “These jobs mean people can work in their communities and don’t have to emigrate to Russia to earn a living.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.