More than 340,000 trees planted in new forests in Lori region
YEREVAN—Armenia Tree Project (ATP), founded by the philanthropist Carolyn Mugar, is one of the only organizations dedicated to planting trees in every region of the country including Artsakh. The organization planted another 412,482 trees in 2012, bringing the total number of trees planted and rejuvenated to more than 4,225,000 since 1994.
The flagship Community Tree Planting program planted 70,383 fruit and decorative trees in 2012, while the SEEDS program planted another 342,099 reforestation seedlings in Northern Armenia. ATP launched the program known as SEEDS, or “Social, Economic, and Environmental Development for Sustainability,” in 2011. It has allowed ATP to build capacity in its reforestation programs while improving results through a greater emphasis on community development and investing in social capital in planting areas.
This fall, ATP finished planting new forest sites in the communities of Ghursali and Arjut in the Lori region. Planting began in these communities in 2009 with the support of WWF Germany, WWF Caucasus, and WWF Armenia and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety of the Federal Republic of Germany through KfW.
Planting was also completed at a 60 hectare site in the community of Saratovka and ATP began working on a new forest site in Koghes with the planting and seeding of a 20 hectare site. The work in Koghes is expected to be completed in spring 2013 with the addition of several thousand pine seedlings. The newly planted forests consist of native oak, ash, apple, and pear trees.
Most of the seedlings come from ATP’s Mirak Family Reforestation Nursery in Margahovit. The oak and ash trees were also purchased from rural families growing trees in backyard nursery micro-enterprises in the Getik River Valley. “This year, for the first time, ATP used Alpine Maple and Mountain Ash species for afforestation purposes,” explains SEEDS program manager Vardan Melikyan. “Both are considered endangered in Armenia and if the survival rate is high, ATP will be planting more of these trees in the future.”
In addition to planting, the SEEDS team installed fencing around a 50 hectare site in Koghes where forests started regenerating naturally in recent years. “The fence will protect oak, hornbeam, and other trees from cattle and the risk of being damaged by people,” says Melikyan. “We plan to seed and coppice the site in order to rehabilitate the forest that has been growing in this area in the past.”
All of the forest sites planted by ATP have been maintained by a seasonal workforce of 60 people, which involved clearing grass around thousands of seedlings to improve survival rates. Forest sites planted by the SEEDS team since 2011 have maintained a 61 percent survival rate, which is a rather high index for such mountainous zones.
“Our seasonal workers were busy for six months with reforestation and maintenance activities. This provided a substantial seasonal income and, as a result, many villagers remained in Armenia instead of emigrating for work,” adds Melikyan, “With better tree survival rates, they will have more work to do during the maintenance period, thus making even more money. Hence, they’re motivated to perform even better to have work for summer.”
In September, ATP’s nursery, forestry, and SEEDS managers traveled to Helsinki for a study tour. Most of Finland’s forests are privately owned and the ATP experts got acquainted with European forest management practices after visiting the Finnish Forest Research Institute and several local nurseries.
“Although Armenia cannot be compared with Finland in terms of forest cover and forest management, it is important to learn from such countries to develop a vision of what is desirable for the future of Armenia’s forests,” notes Melikyan.
As part of its community development initiatives, the SEEDS program spearheaded the ReGardening of Eden partnership in Margahovit Village with the Acopian Center for the Environment at American University of Armenia. Focusing on the importance of trees, the protection of wildlife habitat, and proper waste management, the partnership is engaging local youth and community residents in the creation of a new park, environmental education, trash collection, and recycling programs.
Finally, the SEEDS team is partnering with the Syun NGO on a pilot program to introduce more efficient wood stoves in the communities of Tatev, Svarants, Shunuhayr, and Halidzor. The new stoves use 40 percent less fuelwood than traditional stoves while ensuring an adequate level of heating in winter. The project will begin with the construction and deployment of 38 energy efficiency wood stoves in the local schools and village administration buildings.
ATP’s mission is to assist the Armenian people in using trees to improve their standard of living and protect the environment, guided by the desire to promote self-sufficiency, aid those with the fewest resources first, and conserve the indigenous ecosystem. ATP’s three major programs are tree planting, environmental education, and sustainable development initiatives. For more information, please visit the website www.armeniatree.org.