Armenia is a country of diverse landscapes, varied climatic regions, and significant biodiversity. Its economy is strongly rooted in agriculture, which presents exciting opportunities for participants who are interested in food production and agricultural sustainability. Agriculture produces approximately 15% of Armenia’s GDP and is the main source of economic activity in rural areas. Most farms in Armenia are small-scale, family farms that use traditional farming methods rather than large machinery. Major food products include potatoes, fruits, grapes, vegetables, lamb, poultry, and livestock.
Armenia’s agricultural sector faces many challenges, especially related to environmental sustainability and production efficiency. Agriculture is a major source of water pollution in the Ararat Valley due to soil erosion, while the use of Soviet-era pesticides like DDT and overgrazing livestock has led to the loss of steppe and mountain grasslands and shrub vegetation. Additionally, farmers need improved access to technology that will increase yields in order to become globally competitive.
Despite these challenges, this is an exciting time in Armenia’s agricultural sector. The increasing influence of NGOs and grassroots organizations has brought increased awareness to environmental and economic issues. Startups are finding innovative ways to increase agricultural capacity and food safety.
Here are just a few of the organizations that interns and volunteers can work with during their time in Armenia:
Center for Agribusiness and Rural Development (CARD)
CARD is an Armenian organization that designs and implements agricultural development assistance programs in order to stimulate sustainable growth in Armenian agriculture. These include promoting the use of advanced technology, increasing the competitiveness of food products for domestic and export markets, improving food security and safety, improving animal health and husbandry practices, and supporting the establishment of new government policies and regulations. Their farmer and market-driven approach help to increase incomes, create jobs and improve livelihoods for rural populations.
A placement at CARD would be best suited for a volunteer with experience in sustainability, public relations, or nutrition and food science.
Green Lane NGO
Green Lane NGO is a pioneering organization in the concept of participatory approaches to rural development. They emphasize community- and farmer-driven research, and empower women, poor villagers, and other vulnerable groups to participate in the decision-making process. Green Lane aims to improve the socioeconomic status of rural Armenians through the introduction of sustainable agricultural practices, improve the environment through education and advocacy, and stimulate growth in similarly aligned organizations through training and network-building.
Volunteers with experience in research, community development, or socioeconomics would be best suited for a placement at Green Lane NGO.
International Center for Agribusiness Research and Education (ICARE)
ICARE aims to create food and agribusiness leaders through state-of-the-art education programs and cutting-edge research. They administer the Agribusiness Teaching Center (ATC), the Agribusiness Research Center (ARC), and the EVN Wine Academy (EVN). ICARE prepares students to assist farmers, businesses, and public agencies to overcome challenges and work towards a more sustainable and profitable agricultural sector in Armenia and globally.
ICARE would be a great option for volunteers with experience in sustainability, education, or research relating to environmental issues.
Nairian Cosmetics is an Armenian cosmetics company that creates cruelty-free products from ingredients grown on their eco-farm and from other local growers. They use premium quality ingredients and are committed to sustainability. In addition to their environmentally friendly business model, they emphasize transparency and social responsibility. They have achieved gender parity in their management positions and often hire from rural communities, where well-paid jobs can be scarce.
A position at Nairian Cosmetics would be great for a volunteer with an interest in the sustainable farming and processing of ingredients for high-value products.