Meet Alvard Davoyan

Alvard - ©Austrian Development Agency

Alvard Davoyan © Austrian Development Agency, 2020

She’s a local farmer from Vardablur - a small, isolated village tucked away in the forests of Armenia’s Lori province.

In her region, high poverty levels are the reality of life. There are few economic opportunities outside of farming, and unemployment rates are above the national average. For those working in agriculture, the remote location often means limited access to the market.

That’s why she and five other women decided to set-up the Vardablur Women’s Agricultural Cooperative, with Alvard at the head. They are united in their love of farming and their drive to withstand the challenges of rural life.

Over the last four years, they’ve been growing organic greens and vegetables in their homestead gardens and selling their healthy produce to local markets and restaurants.

Coronavirus in the South Caucasus

When the pandemic spread to Armenia, life came to a sudden halt. Most of Alvard’s usual markets closed and the women’s cooperative didn’t have the means to scale up production to supply some of the bigger, more diversified markets in the region.

However, thanks to a longstanding partnership with the EU and its countries, Alvard and others were able to quickly get back to doing what they love most - farming local produce.

“The European Union literally rescued our cooperative and many other smaller, more vulnerable farmers in the region. They helped us increase the yield immediately and offered an efficient long-term solution.”

©Austrian Development Agency, 2020

The Vardablur Women’s Agricultural Cooperative © Austrian Development Agency, 2020

Partners in times of crisis

The women received support from the EU-Green Agriculture Initiative in Armenia (EU-GAIA), co-funded by the EU and the Austrian Development Agency.

For the EU, this project is part of broader cooperation with its closest neighbours. For Austria, Armenia is a priority country for development cooperation, with a focus on raising agricultural productivity.

EU-GAIA kicked-off in Yerevan in March 2020, with the purpose of developing Armenia’s sustainable agribusinesses. But it was also just in time to help during the pandemic.

The support meant that farmers could increase their yield, diversify production and become more self-reliant during these difficult times.

“Thanks to the EU, farmers across the country received innovative machinery that’s multifunctional, energy-saving, and less harmful to the environment.”

Partners beyond the crisis

Beyond coronavirus, the project is part of the EU’s green recovery plan. It will directly support around 600 agribusinesses in Armenia. Retailers and consumers will benefit from diversity and better quality of products.

By stimulating investments and innovation in agriculture, both inside and outside the EU, the Union works towards making the sector more sustainable for the future. This will not only help address food insecurity and poverty, but will also contribute to protecting the environment and tackling climate change.

“Thanks to the European Union and the Austrian Development Agency, we are now able to expand our arable land cultivation starting already this year. We are thankful beyond words and will never forget this support.”

©Austrian Development Agency, 2020

Alvard and her family © Austrian Development Agency, 2020