By Shakeh Avoyan
A local office overseeing the implementation of a multimillion U.S. aid package has completed the selection of rural communities whose farmers will be trained in how to manage their agribusinesses in a more efficient way.
The Millennium Challenge Account – Armenia (MCA-Armenia) on Wednesday selected the timing during which villages will participate in the training component of its Water-to-Market Activity.
The Water-to-Market Activity, implemented by ACDI/VOCA, Arcadis Euroconsult, and their local partner VISTAA Plus, focuses primarily on providing training to help farmers transition to more profitable, market-oriented agriculture. The training programs within this activity will prepare 60,000 farmers over a period of five years.
The training program is part of the $236 million Compact that the Armenian government signed with the U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation in March 2006
U.S. Charge d’Affaires Rudolf Perina said the MCA-Armenia has the goal of reducing poverty in rural communities through ensuring a stable economic growth.
“Armenia plans to achieve this goal through a five-year program of strategic investments in rural roads, irrigation infrastructure and technical and financial assistance to improve the supply of water and to support farmers,” Perina said in his remarks.
Villages to be provided with training in the second, third, fourth and fifth year of the program were grouped by regions and the Water User Associations in which they are members. A total of 120 village clusters -- usually one, two or three villages grouped together based on geography and agricultural conditions -- were selected for year 2008, 77 for years 2009 and 2010, and 80 for 2011. A total of 69 village clusters were included in the pilot phase. An additional 82 village clusters have been identified as currently having inadequate water. They are expected to be become eligible as water improves through irrigation rehabilitation efforts.
To ensure fairness and transparency, random selection of the communities was determined to be the best method.
Deputy Minister of Local Government Vache Terterian expressed his satisfaction with the selection process, which he described as transparent.
“It is a normal modern way of selection. It is important that all communities are clustered primarily based on certain criteria,” he said.
Representatives of village communities attending the selection process expressed their satisfaction as well.
However, Farmers’ Movement NGO president Sargis Sedrakian thinks villagers need more tangible assistance than trainings today.
“Villagers are tired of advice and trainings, they want concrete assistance in the form of technical means and equipment,” he said. “Training is also important, but there are many problems that come first.”
Sedrakian fears the Millennium Challenge funds will be wastes or at best will benefit the local ‘feudalists’.
Vanik Soghomonian, one of the many farmers selected for the training, admits he is a feudalist. “But only if a feudalist means a businessman who creates something and provides people with well-paid jobs,” he explains.