Armenia Tree Project ‘Enters the Forest’
With Large-Scale Reforestation Program
YEREVAN--Nearly 120,000 tree seedlings for reforestation were purchased this Fall by Armenia Tree Project (ATP) from backyard nurseries owned by residents of the rural villages of Aghavnavank, Dzoravank, and Aygut. These rural communities are inhabited by Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan and are located in the Getik River Valley near Lake Sevan.
In October and November, ATP started a massive reforestation project in the Getik River Valley. By the end of November, three plots of over 50 hectares (123 acres) of land will be completely covered with strong and healthy seedlings. More than 40 villagers are employed by ATP in the reforesting activity.
In 2004, as part of its 10th anniversary, ATP announced the beginning of its first large scale reforestation initiative, which was strongly encouraged by its many generous donors. This phase of the project was made possible through a leadership gift of $100,000 from Mr. and Mrs. Augustus Barber of Maine, who have been enthusiastic supporters since 1995.
In the early 1990s, Gus Barber visited Armenia and witnessed people with no work, food, or prospects for improvement. “Trees were being cut down everywhere, and people cannot live without trees,” he told ATP. Gus was so struck by the unfortunate plight of Armenia that he made a commitment to improving the situation.
Gus’ personal experiences as the son of Armenian immigrants gave him a particular appreciation for the hardships of others. In 1955, he started a small business with just three employees. Today, as President of Barber Foods, he employs over 850 workers. Over 40 percent of his staff are immigrants, and each year he pays college tuition for 25 employees. The company celebrated its 50th anniversary in September.
Gus takes great pride in his own flourishing orchard of walnut, apple, and other fruit trees, plus a large stand of wild Maine blueberries. In recent years, the Barber Family supported the planting of over 5,000 walnut and almond trees at pilgrimage sites and in rural villages throughout Armenia. Gus was instrumental in assisting ATP with the backyard fruit tree renewal project in Aygut, which was completed in Fall 2004.
ATP established a unique backyard nursery pilot project in 2003 in Aygut. Working closely with communities and local officials, ATP entered into agreements with families interested in growing tree seedlings to be sold to ATP for reforestation of the mountains surrounding their village.
Seventeen nurseries were established in the first year, and as a result of the success of the pilot program, the number of families participating grew to 153 this year. The program now includes two other villages where families agreed to develop these micro-enterprises in collaboration with ATP.
In early 2005, ATP was planning to plant 90,000 trees in observance of the 90th anniversary of the Genocide. However, due to the expansion and success of this rural economic development program, the backyard nurseries produced 120,000 seedlings ready for planting. This, in combination with ATP’s Community Tree Planting program, will result in the planting of over 170,000 trees, far exceeding the number of trees ever planted by ATP in a single year.