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Planting a Forest of Hope in Armenia

Amid constant border tensions and attacks on Armenian territory, Armenia Tree Project (ATP) realizes the critical importance of staying collected in the face of extreme provocation and continuing our mission to assist the Armenian people in using trees to improve their standard of living and protect the global environment.
This fall, ATP’s forestry division plans to plant 400,000 trees over 110 hectares in the villages and communities of Mets Sariar, Lerakert, Lernanist and Urasar located in Armenia’s northern regions of Shirak, Kotayk and Lori.
In addition to environmental benefits, ATP strives to provide economic independence to local residents. The women and men who lead the planting of these trees are all from adjacent communities. This fall, around 125 seasonal workers will be hired to plant the forests.
When it comes to selecting trees for forest plantings, it is essential to pick the right kinds of trees. Therefore, our specialists try to introduce only native species, including rare and endangered varieties whenever possible and cultivate a mix of species, as is found naturally. The main types of trees found in Armenia’s forests are pine, maple, oak, birch, as well as wild apple and pear.
The territories selected for afforestation are degraded agricultural lands largely due to climate change and extreme grazing over the course of several decades. To prevent the further degradation of these lands, local officials obtain consent from the residents and designate the areas for forest plantings.
ATP conducts its own site investigations to determine if the area is suitable for forest planting. After that, an independent body is hired to prepare The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which ensures that decision-makers have various data points, certified and independently reviewed when deciding whether or not to proceed with a proposed forestry project. Following the report, a public hearing is announced for ATP to address the community directly.
Two of ATP’s forest sites located in Mets Sariar and Lernakert villages are in the region of Shirak, which is considered the poorest in Armenia. Unemployment, the closure of local small businesses and the pandemic have made the socioeconomic situation dire.
The village of Lernakert, one of Shirak’s most vulnerable communities, is nestled in the mountains – quite far from the urban hustle and bustle of larger nearby villages. Located on the western slope of Mount Aragats, it is 10 kilometers south of the town of Artik and 35 kilometers from the provincial capital of Gyumri. The mountain life in the village is relatively quiet, particularly in Lernakert. The community was established in 1840 and was originally inhabited by refugees from Mush and Alashkert. Today, Lernakert has a population of around 1,500 people, making it one of the largest villages in the region. The village houses a culture house, a kindergarten, a medical center, a community center and a secondary school.
In addition, this year ATP has undertaken planting in another two forest sites, which include Urasar village in Lori region and Lernanist in Kotayk region. ATP is proud to assist in revitalizing Armenia’s communities. For years, ATP’s Community Tree Planting (CTP) Program has implemented different planting projects in many rural villages across Armenia, which have included the distribution of fruit and decorative trees to local families, as well as establishing small community forests.
Since 1994, ATP has been using trees to improve the standard of living in Armenia and Artsakh, focusing on aiding those with the fewest resources. Planting forests in these communities leads not only to clean air, the preservation of groundwater and less dust, but it also creates new employment opportunities. ATP has hired hundreds of seasonal workers every year to support its spring and fall fundraising plantings. To date, ATP has established over 1,200 hectares of new forest, improving and preserving Armenia’s environment and providing economic opportunities to many rural villagers who work for ATP during planting seasons.
Armenia Tree Project

Armenian Weekly

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