June 11, 2015
YEREVAN--The ongoing civil war in Syria has had a negative impact on its entire population, and its 80,000 Syrian-Armenians are no exception. Since 2011, a large number of Syrian-Armenian refugees moved to Armenia not only because it is their ancestral homeland but also because its migration policies and repatriation program made the move relatively easy.
Some Syrian-Armenian refugees have chosen to settle in Artsakh. The Kashatagh region is currently home to 34 Syrian-Armenian families who originate from Kessab and Qamshli. The climate and land is similar to their native towns. They've been provided with aid and loans for houses and land in Kovsakan, Berdzor and Ishkhanadzor.
Many have large families and are experienced farmers who were engaged in agriculture in pre-war Syria where they had working farms. The refugees are trying to employ themselves in agribusiness and have already begun sowing wheat, barley and chickpeas.
"One of Armenia Tree Project's goals is to combat poverty by creating jobs through the use of trees and promoting self-sufficiency by distributing fruit bearing trees to those with few resources," explains Country Director Lucineh Kassarjian. "Trees provide food, environmental benefits and opportunities for economic growth. So we provided fruit trees to 200 families in Kashatagh including the 34 Syrian-Armenian families. We are providing a vital resource to alleviate their burden."
"ATP conducted trainings to teach them how to plant and care for the trees we distributed," adds Kasarjian, "and our follow up visits confirm that most of the refugees who received trees and training are capable of growing them and eager to receive more in later planting seasons."
The refugees are now growing apple, pear, apricot, plum, cherry and almond trees from ATP's nurseries. They've also initiated their own projects to grow olive and orange trees.
"We will continue monitoring the Kashatagh region and stand ready to further assist and work with the Syrian-Armenian community to plant trees," concludes Kassarjian.
ATP's mission is to assist the Armenian people in using trees to improve their standard of living and protect the environment, guided by the desire to promote self-sufficiency, aid those with the fewest resources and conserve the indigenous ecosystem. ATP's three major programs are tree planting, environmental education and sustainable development initiatives.