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PRESS RELEASE
July 10, 2006

ATP Plants Over 340,000 Seedlings During Large Scale Reforestation of Getik River Valley This Spring

-- Brings Total Number of Trees Planted by ATP This Spring to 487,200

YEREVAN--Armenia Tree Project (ATP) expanded its reforestation program by planting 343,750 trees in the Getik River Valley of the Gegharkounik region north of Lake Sevan in April-May 2006. Plantings on two massive forest plots covered a total of 400 acres with indigenous species of trees, including chestnut, maple, ash, oak, walnut, wild apple, and wild pear.

Eighty workers from the villages of Aghavnavank, Dzoravank, Dprabak, and Aygut were employed by ATP to assist in the reforestation of 400 acres of land in the Getik River Valley this spring (Photo by Haik Badalyan)
Eighty workers from the villages of Aghavnavank, Dzoravank, Dprabak, and Aygut were employed by ATP to assist in the reforestation of 400 acres of land in the Getik River Valley this spring (Photo by Haik Badalyan)

Eighty workers--all residents of the villages of Aghavnavank, Dzoravank, Dprabak, and Aygut--were employed by ATP to implement the tree-planting activity on the neighboring hillsides. Seedlings were purchased from backyard nurseries owned by 118 families in these rural communities, which are mainly inhabited by Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan.

The very first step in this initiative was taken during the year of ATP’s 10th anniversary, when the organization announced the beginning of the first extensive reforestation initiative. ATP’s Rural and Mountainous Development (RMD) Program was strengthened this season with the generous support of the Bilezikian Family Foundation and United Armenian Charities, which assisted the expansion of the backyard nursery program, and the Mirak Family Foundation, which provided funding to establish a reforestation nursery in the village of Margahovit in the Lori region.

The backyard nursery program began as a pilot project in 2004 in the village of Aygut. Working with communities and local officials, ATP entered into agreements with 17 families who were interested in growing tree seedlings that would be used in the reforestation of once densely wooded mountains that were enormously degraded over the last decade. The initiative was designed to reverse the effects of this deforestation, which led to severe flooding and erosion in the villages along the Getik River.

In 2004-2006, the program was expanded to include four neighboring villages. The owners of the backyard nurseries were supplied with seeds, tools, and equipment, and ATP agro-specialists visited nurseries to provide technical assistance, training, and consultation to the farmers.

“When we began our backyard nursery program we looked for an area that would benefit most from our reforestation efforts,” stated ATP Executive Director Jeff Masarjian. “We started with the knowledge that deforestation was linked to poverty. We knew that in addition to planting trees, we had to provide people with a steady income so they could meet their basic needs.”

According to a household survey conducted by ATP in 2003, the average annual income of rural villagers in Aygut was $280 US, so the money earned by the families and workers involved in this project has provided a desperately needed source of income.

“In two years we have grown from helping 17 families learn how to start their own tree nurseries to now providing a stable income for 330 families who are creating a successful and renewable source of tree seedlings for the degraded hillsides around their villages,” noted ATP founder Carolyn Mugar. “ATP has found a way to create reliable ‘micro-enterprise’ partnerships with these families, and we are grateful to our supporters for helping us bring their work to fruition.”

Over 343,750 seedlings purchased from 118 families or grown in ATP’s reforestation nursery in Lori were planted in the Getik Valley of the Gegharkounik region north of Lake Sevan (Photo by Haik Badalyan)
Over 343,750 seedlings purchased from 118 families or grown in ATP’s reforestation nursery in Lori were planted in the Getik Valley of the Gegharkounik region north of Lake Sevan (Photo by Haik Badalyan)

Armen Gharayan, a 38 year-old refugee who worked at the reforestation site this spring, commented: “I was preparing to leave my village for good. Lack of job and vital livelihood forced my family to plan for moving to Russia. Because of ATP and its benevolent mission carried out on the territory adjacent to Dzoravank village, I was able to participate in this project and earn a living. On behalf of my whole family, I want to pass our heartfelt thanks to ATP for this opportunity to remain in my homeland and restore the mistreated environment of the Getik Valley.”

This spring, ATP purchased 95,000 healthy and strong seedlings from 118 families as part of its rural economic development program. These families earned 9.5 million drams, which is equal to $21,000 US. The remaining seedlings were propagated by ATP at a large reforestation nursery in Lori region. ATP distributed another $39,000 in the region to hire 80 workers and to transplant the seedlings from the nurseries to the reforestation plots.

Zoya Manucharyan, the owner of one of the most productive backyard nurseries, has been collaborating with ATP for more than three years: “Thanks to Armenia Tree Project I could buy a house, which was unaffordable before. Being a part of the reforestation program during the past three years helped us improve our living accommodations and inspired us to continue preserving Armenia’s gorgeous nature. I would be happy to collaborate with ATP again.”

Plans are being made now to expand the RMD Program for the upcoming fall planting season. In addition, ATP’s Community Tree Planting (CTP) division accomplished the planting of 143,450 trees and shrubs in every region of Armenia, including Artsakh, nearly tripling their previous planting record.

ATP was founded in 1994 with the vision of securing Armenia’s future by protecting its environment and advancing its socio-economic development by mobilizing resources to fund reforestation, community tree planting, environmental education and advocacy, as well as rural development through job creation. ATP uses trees to improve the standard of living of Armenians, promoting self-sufficiency and aiding those with fewest resources first.

In just over 12 years ATP has planted and rejuvenated almost 1,250,000 trees at over 600 sites in Armenia and Artsakh. With the establishment of the new Mirak Family Reforestation nursery in Lori and expansion of the backyard nursery program, ATP hopes to begin planting over one million trees each year to help secure the future of Armenia.


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