Ten Years of Armenian Tree Project
I think that I shall never see
HAVERHILL, MA (Armenian Weekly)--Imagine if you will a world without trees. We wouldn’t have paper, home, or fuel. We wouldn’t have the beauty of life around us. Of all the seasons, I prefer autumn best, simply because of its colorful foliage.
I’ve photographed unusual trees and planted ordinary ones in memory of the deceased. I can therefore appreciate the efforts of one Armenian venture that has made a rather noticeable impact upon its country over the past 10 years.
Armenia Tree Project has been greening Armenia since 1994 with its fertility and growth. A decade isn’t exactly a long time when you consider the life of an oak or its sister elm. It seemed like only yesterday when destitute Armenians were cutting down the trees of their country for firewood as a means of survival. The country was literally naked with landscaping, leaving in its wake a land of tree stumps as a grim reminder.
A country without a tree isn’t fit for a dog and there was no such thing as money growing on trees. Neither has prevailed in Armenia in recent times. But thanks to horticulturalists and benefactors, the road to recovery is now being lined with trees.
As of this year, some 415,000 trees have been planted and restored throughout Armenia. Hundreds of jobs have been regained for the people who need them most. Above all, significant advances have been made in developing new poverty reduction and reforestation projects. And yet, in many ways, the work is just beginning, all because of this Armenia Tree Project.
In addition to producing 40,000 trees annually from nurseries, plans are being made in the homeland to establish a new forest nursery with the capacity to produce a million trees per year. By 2015, the goal of seeing 15 million trees planted remains a sturdy one.
Vanadzor, a city of 175,000 in northern Armenia, was the scene of a disastrous earthquake in December 1988. This same region now faces the looming threat of further natural disaster--this time man-made.
Over-cutting of the forests in recent years has reached disastrous proportions. Already most of the slopes facing Vanadzor are devoid of trees and landslides are imminent. Precious topsoils are being washed away that invariably accompany the loss of vital tree cover.
The threat of floods grows day by day. Armenia’s delicate infrastructure stands to sustain a further tremendous blow, along with the real prospect of lives lost, if remedial steps are not taken immediately.
The project has aggressively expanded urban green belts, built two modern nurseries, established enterprise opportunities in villages, and piloted a model reforestation/poverty reduction program.
I, for one, look for ways of channeling money to worthy charities abroad. Hardly a week goes by when someone isn’t knocking on my door for a contribution. The tree project is as good as any and I support it wholeheartedly. It has come in the manner of a memorial or a generic holiday gift for someone hard to please.
They have the comfort of knowing that a piece of them is doing some good in Armenia for a lot of folks. A funeral home in my city has the right approach. Whenever someone dies, they plant a tree in that person’s memory. It may not shake the universe but it does give you the comfort of knowing there are people out there who care about strengthening our environment and preserving our woodlands.
The horrendous thought of seeing Armenia turned into a barren wasteland is not far from reality. Once our people were described as “starving Armenians,” which could be replaced by “treeless Armenians.” We don’t need another negative connotation. Trees are the single most important contributor to the health and vitality of a community. Today’s mighty oak was yesterday’s tiny acorn that held its ground.
I salute people like executive director Jeff Masarjian and others attached to the project. The group is planning a 10th anniversary dinner-dance at Boston’s Seaport Hotel on June 10 and could use all the support that’s out there.
Any contributions could be sent to: Armenia Tree Project, 65 Main St., Watertown, MA 02472. The tree you plant today could contribute to the growth of an entire nation.
April 17, 2004