The program mostly financed by the World Bank aims to boost meat and milk production and improve pasture management in those impoverished communities that are home to roughly 78,000 people. Much of that assistance is to be channeled into local infrastructures through agricultural cooperatives which the bank and the Armenian government hope will be formed by farmers.
Some 50 farmers in the village of Berdashen were the first to set up such a cooperative and thus qualify for the scheme. The village lies in the northwestern corner of Armenia bordering Turkey and Georgia. Cattle raising is the principal agricultural activity in the mountainous area known for harsh winters.
Sarkisian personally drove to Berdashen on Wednesday to congratulate its residents and pledge support for their joint work. Citing research conducted by World Bank experts, he said their average income will rise by at least 20 percent within a year or so.
Officials accompanying the prime minister said the local cooperative will receive 87 drams ($232,000) worth of assistance. They said it will be spent on the purchase of agricultural equipment and the construction of milk storage and cattle reproduction facilities as well as a slaughterhouse in Berdashen.
“The state is doing what it can,” Sarkisian told journalists. “When our resources increase we try to channel our financial assistance into the most disadvantaged regions.”
“Obviously, it’s not possible to solve all problems at once,” he said. “We can’t fully repair the local roads and school at once. But we are convinced that thanks to these investments living standards in this region will improve every year.”
The livestock farming scheme is part of the government’s broader efforts to reverse a slump in agriculture that was registered last year due to highly unfavorable weather conditions. The sector generating approximately one-fifth of Armenia’s Gross Domestic Product contracted by over 14 percent.