Seventeen Members of Armenian Parliament Visit ATG Wheat Fields

Seventeen Members of Armenian Parliament Visit ATG Wheat Fields

July 15, 2009

Members of the Armenian National Assembly gave an exploratory visit to ATG wheat fields planted with conservation farming methodology in Armenia earlier this spring. These 17 Members of Parliament (MP’s) represent the Agricultural Committee within the Armenian Parliament, and they shape the agricultural policy within the National Parliament.

The purpose of their visit was to investigate and learn about conservation farming systems that ATG has introduced to Armenia and how this system can benefit the farming sector in Armenia.

To maximize farmer accessibility and on-going extension education during the 2008-2009 planting season, ATG selected seven geographic sites in Shirak, Lori and Armavir regions as experimental trial plots using conservation no-till farming technology for training farmers.

The MP’s visited the Shirak and Lori regions of Armenia, where ATG has planted their winter and spring demonstration fields. Gagik Mkrchyan, director of ATG Foundation in Armenia, explained to the MP’s the benefits of the new methodology to the environment and particularly to the private farmers.

The MP’s learned firsthand the immediate benefits of no-till farming: moisture retention in the soil and reduction of erosion, two major problems facing the Armenian farmer, particularly those who farm on dry or hilly terrain, which make up much of the country’s land. Farmers can reduce their water usage by up to 25% and reduce soil erosion by as much as 95%.

The visiting MP’s observed that these two benefits alone are enough to justify conservation farming in the Republic.

The President of ATG’s Board of Directors, Dr. Jim Reynolds, said, “We value highly the visit of the MP’s to our fields and their interest in no-till practices. Their support is vital in modernizing farming approach in the republic.”

The current economic situation in Armenia has created a very difficult situation: many farmers are no longer able to afford cultivating their land. The inefficiency of available farm equipment and the rising costs of fuel and irrigation water make it almost impossible for small farmers to break even. As a result, thousands of hectares of land have been left idle and are not being cultivated. In the long term, this will have a significant negative impact on the local food supplies.

As ATG Executive Director Varoujan Der Simonian states, “It is crucial that we move fast and provide opportunities to the farmers to gradually convert their operation to conservation and no-till systems technology in order to sustain themselves and generate food for the republic.”

By applying conservation farming practices, farmers would be able to reduce their labor cost by 50%, farm equipment operation and maintenance cost by 50% and fuel consumption by 37% – resulting in an overall savings of 65% of their operating cost. The above savings will help small and mid-size farming enterprises to produce food at a lower cost and function profitably.

Following their visit, the Speaker of Parliament issued an invitation to ATGF Director Gagik Mkrchyan to make a presentation to the full house of the Armenian Parliament regarding the benefits that no-till farming systems technology can bring to the Republic. Mr. Mkrchyan will make his presentation in early Fall 2009.

As a non-profit organization, ATG depends on public support to carry out its mission. On this 20th anniversary of assisting the people of Armenia, ATG seeks public financial support to transfer this conservation farming technology to Armenia.