ATG Provides Wheat Seed in 326 Villages in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh

ATG Provides Wheat Seed in 326 Villages in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh

November 25, 2006

By Dennis Pollock (The Fresno Bee)

Seeds planted in Armenia are reaping a harvest of praise for a Fresno nonprofit and the farmers it has helped.

Hovhanness Gaboyan, a wheat grower from the Armenian village of Karnut, was recognized recently by the government of Armenia for his farming efforts that were assisted by the Fresno-based Armenian Technology Group Inc (ATG).

And a tally by the Fresno organization shows that its 14-year-old program to provide wheat seed has reached farmers in 302 villages in Armenia and 24 villages in the neighboring Nagorno-Karabakh region.

“It is a moving experience to be able to put bread on the Armenian table,” said Nubar Tashjian, the group’s president.

The wheat grown in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh as a result of the collaboration is for domestic use, said Varoujan Der Simonian, the organization’s executive director. The region was plagued in 2000 by famine and has struggled to rebuild its farming industry in the years following the breakup of the former Soviet Union.

At an Armenian International AgroForum Conference in Yerevan, Gaboyan was awarded a gold medal for accomplishments that included achieving wheat yields three to four times higher than the country’s average.

Working with the Fresno group, Gaboyan mastered the production of high-quality certified wheat seed. He is a member of the Seed Producers Support Association founded by the Armenian Technology Group in 1998. The association has 47 members who specialize in growing high-quality wheat, alfalfa, corn and barley seeds appropriate for different growing zones in Armenia.

The seed project drew praise from Davit Lokyan, Armenia’s minister of agriculture.

The Armenian Technology Group Seed Multiplication Program has been funded through: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service and its Food for Progress program. The Lincy Foundation. The Bertha and John Garabedian Charitable Foundation in Fresno. Pilgrim Armenian Congregational Church in Fresno. Organizations and individuals in the United States.

Retired University of California Extension agent Roger Benton, a longtime adviser with Armenian Technology, said he was pleased to see farmers getting the recognition.

“They are the backbone of Armenia’s rural economy,” Benton said.

“ATG farmers worked so hard to help feed the nation and their families. I remember particularly when our seed growers literally saved thousands of people from possible starvation and famine by supplying clean and treated seed to over 12,000 farmers to plant their winter wheat in 2000.

“May God bless them all.”

Mekhitar Grigorian, an agronomist working at the Ministry of Agriculture in Armenia, wrote his recollection of the day the seed project was launched in 1992 by a group of Americans who used “their bare hands and shovels” to plant the seed on a cold, snowy day, kneeling as they worked with the soil.

“I will never forget that day, and I feel honored that I was part of those fine people, who cared so much for us and farmers in Armenia,” Grigorian wrote.

The Armenian Technology Group began its assistance to Armenia after an earthquake there in 1988.

Its projects have included fertilizer production, farm equipment manufacturing and assistance to the honey-bee, and wine-grape industries.