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ATG reaches out to Armenian farmers suffering drought


 

September 16, 2000

(The Fresno Bee)

By Dennis Pollock

Fresno-based Armenian Technology Group, Inc. has stepped up its efforts to help farmers in drought-stricken Armenia by providing wheat seed and other assistance costing some $2.8 million.

The nonprofit corporation has been working with wheat growers in the region since 1992 through its subsidiary in Armenia, headed by executive director Roger W. Benton, former University of California Extension agent.

Benton recently met with U.S. Embassy officials and other agencies in Armenia to discuss ways to help farmers whose losses have run into the millions this summer.

The Armenian Technology Group will procure, clean, treat, sort, and bag some 2,000 tons of U.S. winter wheat seed the corporation helped to produce in Armenia.

The seed was grown in the region by an association of 110 farmers assisted by the nonprofit group. It will be packaged in 50-kilogram bags and distributed to 6,000 farmers in the next two to four weeks in time for planting this fall.

"Whatever we can do now will help reduce the chances of facing a major famine the International Red Cross is warning us about," said Varoujan Der Simonian, ATG's executive director in Fresno.

An estimated 4 million people face drought-related famine in three former Soviet republics -- Tajikistan, Georgia, and Armenia. In Tajikistan, it's the worst drought in more than 70 years and has threatened half the population.

Armenian Agriculture Minister Zaven Gevorkyan said the drought in Armenia has cost farmers some $40 million. The government will subsidize irrigation projects for wheat and animal-fodder crops, he said.

Hot, dry weather also has gripped neighboring Georgia this summer, and U.N. officials described drought in parts of Iran and Afghanistan as the worst in 30 years. Poor infrastructure has exacerbated the damage.

Benton wrote a letter to the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, Armenia, outlining plans for the emergency assistance program that include offering technical assistance and providing production credit in Armenia.

"It is heartwarming to ATG's Board of Directors to realized that after eight years of hard work and dedication, results of our efforts to establish a self-sustaining program in Armenia are being realized," Benton wrote.

"As you know, it is the private sector that we have worked to strengthen, and it is these private farmers and seed producers who will be depended upon to supply Armenia with seeds."

The U.S. State Department is supplying $600,000 for the emergency effort.

For more information about how you can help Armenia's farmers, contact the ATG office at (559) 224-1000 or by e-mail (info@atgusa.org). Tax-deductible donations can be sent to ATG; 1300 E. Shaw, Suite 149; P.O.Box 5969; Fresno, CA 93755-5969.
You may also donate to ATG online.