By Serouj Aprahamian

We live in a world today where development is purported to hinge on services and technological innovation. To be competitive in the global economy, countries are told they must enter the information age and develop sectors such as IT. This penchant for progress is certainly a positive one. But creating the economy of the future must first start with the most fundamental base of production and sustenance: agriculture.

Today, agriculture accounts for 19% of Armenia’s GDP and 37% of the employed workforce in the country. It is also a quickly growing sector providing for the largest share of contributions to annual growth. For Armenia, the efficient and sustainable cultivation of land—generating incomes that can then build the base for greater economic activity—is essential for both prosperity and self-sufficiency.

That is why a recent campaign launched by Oxfam in Armenia and One Armenia to support female agricultural cooperatives in Armenia’s border villages is so important.

“Since 2010, Oxfam has helped establish cooperatives in 15 villages across Armenia, including four in the critical region of Tavush,” says Oxfam in Armenia representative Kristine Hovhannisian. “With the help of One Armenia, we are taking this initiative to the next level by crowdfunding for the construction of four additional greenhouses in Tavush, that will provide a stable income for nearly 50 women farmers in these volatile border communities.”

The campaign is seeking to raise $10,000 for each of the four greenhouses to be built ($40,000 total). These greenhouses will increase productivity in the existing cooperatives by over 50%, paving the way for secure jobs and improved living standards throughout the community.

Just as central as the economic imperative is the social component of the project. The cooperatives are all female focused and operate on participatory democratic principles. Each cooperative member has a voice in decisions and benefits from the proceeds equally. This collective approach has proven effective in not only pooling resources to achieve growth but also in distributing the gains of such growth more equally in the community.

The entry of One Armenia into campaign also marks a new, exciting opportunity for the Diaspora to engage in progressive initiatives in the homeland. This is a unique opportunity for Armenians to take action and see their dollar make a real difference for those who have so long been ignored and marginalized.

As explained by the organization’s Country Director Nazareth Seferian, “With this project, we are trying to find a sustainable solution to poverty for more than 50 families in our border villages. At the same time, we’re focusing on redefining the role of women in rural Armenian society, giving them the opportunity, skills and resources to make a positive change in their communities. It’s a win-win!”

Each greenhouse is expected to generate a harvest of 7.5 tons and an annual net revenue of $3200 to each community. But in order for this campaign to reach its goals, the $40,000 total must be raised by June 15th. This targeted deadline will ensure that the greenhouses will be built in time for the harvest season starting in August, allowing the cooperatives to cultivate their crops successfully this year.

Bridging the gap between the Diaspora and Armenia through such meaningful projects is the direction we need to move in if we want to see advancement and prosperity in the country. The much-touted potential of the Diaspora must be put to use through such projects that make a tangible difference for people on the ground.

By supporting this campaign, we will not only be helping uplift families out of poverty, we will be setting the foundation for a more robust and advanced economy for the future.

Help ensure that the Tavush cooperative greenhouses are built in time for this year’s harvest by visiting the campaign page today and making your secure online contribution.

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