Short Overview

Armenia has a long history of using pastures for animal production and breeding. Historically, in mountainous areas, climatic and topographic factors have restricted agricultural activities to raising ruminants; most of Armenia is mountainous. Grassland and pastures occupy about half of total agricultural land (1.1 out of 2.1 million ha) and about one third of the total country area. For some 186,000 rural households, pastures and raising livestock is the main source of livelihood. For the poorest rural people in mountainous communities, revenues from pastures and livestock production are essential for subsistence and a major source of cash income. Higher altitude small-scale farmers and livestock breeders are particularly vulnerable. The economic downturn has increased their vulnerability by making them more dependent on livestock and natural resources for their livelihoods. 

However, pastures are degraded and unproductive. Armenian farmers and livestock producers have access to a vast pasture land for grazing; nonetheless, grazing practices over the last twenty years have led to land degradation and have reduced pasture productivity. This resource degradation is a major contributing factor to the contraction of Armenia’s livestock sector, undercutting its role as a key source of economic growth and of rural livelihoods. Uncontrolled and unmanaged exploitation practiced over the last decades has resulted in unprecedented resource destruction clearly visible around most mountainous villages in Armenia. The reduced use of seasonal grassland, the move to intensive use of pastures, and the poorly regulated access to nearby community land that is easier to access than more remote pastures, have together contributed to the excessive use of certain pastures. This unsustainable land management has led to the loss of soil fertility and vegetative cover, extensive soil erosion, and a general loss of biomass. The problem of overgrazing in nearby village pastures and under-grazing in remote areas had led, on one hand to degradation and erosion of nearby pastures, and on the other hand to under-utilization of other remote pastures,  resulting in a build-up of a soil crust and reduced water absorption and the displacement of valuable pasture flora by lichens. On the other hand, remote pastures are underused (because of distance and access), but still subject to degradation: in this case by the development of bushes, small trees and non-interesting species for ruminants. 

The Armenian Government requested the Bank’s support to address the above problems. As a result, the Community Agricultural Resource Management and Competitiveness (CARMAC) Project has been developed and approved consisting of 4 components. The GEF incremental financing would support the Baseline Project Scenario by complementing and scaling up activities aimed at preventing land degradation and promoting best practices in pasture management in selected marzes of the country. Furthermore, the GEF incremental financing will support activities aimed at improving decision-making through capacity building among communities, farmers as well as Marz Agricultural Support Centers (MASCs) and the national-level Republican Agricultural Support Center (RASC). The project would support advisory and extension programs aimed primarily at livestock-related activities of farmers, farmer associations and cooperatives, and small-scale processors, through the existing network of the regional-level Marz Agricultural Support Centers (MASCs) and the national-level Republican Agricultural Support Center (RASC). To this end it was designed to have special training sessions for the trainers under the GEF Grant. The objective of the training is to strengthen the capacities of existing RASC representative, MASC specialists in eight RA marzes (Aragatsotn, Gegharkunik, Kotayk, Shirak, Lori, Tavush, Vayots Dzor, and Syunik), Marz Support Teams (MSTs) and representatives of “Pasture Users Association” Consumer Cooperatives of communities from six RA marzes (Aragatsotn, Gegharkunik, Shirak, Lori, Tavush, Syunik) established under the CARMAC Project. This would be done on the basis of training for trainers on the selected topics covering the following:

 

  1. Agricultural/farming methods and sustainable soil management;
  2. Management and productive use of natural resource;
  3. Reasons for decreased soil fertility and consequences;
  4. Re-cultivation of degraded soils;
  5. Improvement and sustainable management of natural haylands – pastures and grasslands;
  6. Protein rich fodder crops and their cultivations;
  7. Technologies used for the production and application of organic fertilizers.