ATG Introduces Conservation Agriculture to Armenia
|June 22, 2009
Ministers of Economy and Agriculture and Governor of Armavir Marz visit ATG Operations
The Armenian Minister of Economy. Nerces Yeritzyan, joined by the newly appointed Minister of Agriculture, Gerasim Alaverdyan, made a special working visit to the Armenian Technology Group Foundation (ATG) operations headquarters in Armavir Region.
Governor of Armavir Marz, Ashot Ghahramanyan, and Ishkhan Karapetyan, Executive Director for the Small and Medium Entrepreneurship Development National Center (SME-DNC) of Armenia, also participated in the field trip.
The purpose of their visit was to observe and familiarize themselves with ATG’s latest development project — conservation agriculture — and its long term benefits for the country.
The ministers, accompanied by their senior staff members, visited the ATG warehouses to learn about the new no-till farming equipment and methodology that ATG has introduced to Armenian farmers. The no-till system is widely used in countries around the world at the forefront of agriculture, including the USA, Canada, Argentina, and Brazil, where more than 95 million hectares of land are being cultivated annually with this conservation technology.
Conservation farming technology provides two major sustainable benefits to the country: it allows farmers to save money and resources; and, it enhances the quality of the farmland and increases its productivity.
Agriculture is a challenging and difficult occupation, especially in Armenia, where farmers use outdated farm equipment that is both inefficient and expensive to operate.
Based on 20 years of working experience in the agricultural sector of Armenia along with its vast network of farmer-cooperatives, ATG’s focus for the immediate future is to transfer knowledge and technology to farmers by conducting educational seminars and field demonstrations, thus encouraging them to adopt conservation farming technology and helping them lower their operating costs.
Gagik Mkrchyan, ATGF Country Director in Armenia, guided the visit. He emphasized that the no-till system can reduce farm operating costs between 30-50,000 AMD per hectare. This becomes more significant when taking into account the dry land and semi-mountainous areas that abound in Armenia, where profitable farming operation requires much more effort and focus. No-till farming technology should reduce fuel consumption by 37 percent, and farm labor and farm equipment operating costs by 50 percent.
After studying the new equipment that ATG had introduced, the Minister of Economy stated “Farm equipment technologies have not been developed in Armenia. This new no-till planter could provide a wonderful opportunity to start cooperation between the government/public sector and private sector. It is necessary to encourage farmers to adapt the use of this system. We must persuade the private sector to be engaged in small business development.” Minister Yeritzyan further stated that we should appreciate the possibilities and opportunities that this new system can provide to the republic, adding that Armenia’s grain production is not enough to satisfy its consumption.
The current economic situation in Armenia has created a very difficult situation in the country: many farmers are no longer able to afford cultivating their land. The inefficiency of the farm equipment available to them, plus rising fuel and irrigation water costs, makes it almost impossible for the small farmer to break even. As a result, thousand of hectares of land have been left idle and are not being cultivated. In the long term, this will have a devastating and negative impact on local food supplies.
“In these challenging economic times, we believe it is essential to assist the food producers in Armenia to reduce their operating cost as much as possible.” said Varoujan Der Simonian, Executive Director of ATG. “It is not an accident that the Scientific American Magazine has devoted one of its cover stories to no-till farming practices, which it calls a ‘Quiet Revolution.’ We are pleased by the positive evaluation of the Ministries of Economy and Agriculture, and will join forces with them to find a solution in helping farmers reduce their operating costs and increase their profit margins.”
The ministers also observed the immediate impact that the new system will have on the environment. It minimizes mechanical soil disturbance, which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, soil compaction and the potential for soil erosion, and the disruption of soil biological cycles. The system will also maintain moisture in the soil, reducing the amount of irrigation needed and thus allowing Armenia to conserve its scarce water resources.
ATG was established in 1989 in Fresno, California as a 501(c)3 non-profit public benefit corporation. For the past 20 years, ATG has been focused on providing technical assistance to rural Armenia in establishing long-term, sustainable economic development projects in Armenia and Artsakh. You may contact ATG at P.O. Box 5969 — Fresno, CA 93755, or www.atgusa.org.