For the Armenia Tree Project, this will be a year of significant achievemen’s in community tree planting, large-scale reforestation, nursery expansion, and community development programs. In 2007, ATP planted over 535,000 trees at 174 sites throughout Armenia, fulfilling its pledge to the worldwide campaign launched by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
As part of the "Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign," ATP pledged to plant at least 500,000 trees in 2007, as part of Armenia’s contribution to the UNEP goal to plant at least one billion trees worldwide during 2007.
Since 2004, ATP’s Rural and Mountainous Development (RMD) Program has planted 704,750 trees on 833 acres of deforested land in northern Armenia. The plots are in Aygut, Dzoravank, Dprabak (Gegharkunik Marz), Fioletova, Alaverdi, and Spitak (Lori Marz). ATP produced 250,000 of these high quality seedlings from the Mirak Family Reforestation Nursery.
The local population becomes an essential part of any ATP community program, most importantly by getting involved in tree propagation, planting, and educational activities. For example, residents in the remote villages in Gegharkunik and Tavush are currently engaged in ATP’s backyard nursery project, which has gained in popularity among the villagers and become a stable source of income. More than 250 families from Aygut and Aghavnavank established tree-nurseries in their backyards, knowing they have a secure buyer in ATP. These families have been producing strong saplings from their small nurseries and receive paymen’s that nearly double their annual income.
In addition to the backyard nursery micro-enterprise project, even more people participated in reforestation activities by planting trees on the slopes nearby mountains. ATP has employed hundreds of residents of the six villages to implement reforestation, seed collection, and sowing activities, providing job opportunities that allowed people to earn a living not by cutting Armenia’s precious trees for resale, but by helping restore and sustain the country’s forests, ensuring a better future for their children and grandchildren.
"This year we enlarged a previous reforestation site in Aygut by greening another 388 acres of deforested area," stated RMD Program Manager Vadim Uzunyan. ATP initiated a five party contract with the United Nations Development Program, Armenia’s Ministry of Finance, the Gegharkunik Municipality, and the Aygut local administration. This agreement serves as a basis for implementing a program aimed at supporting community development through reforestation, poverty reduction, and combating corruption. In accordance with the signed contract a total of 374,600 trees are being planted at the Jivikhli site this year."
Also of significant note this year, ATP, with the help of the local population, started building a completely new memorial forest named after Hrant Dink, the Armenian writer who was killed in Istanbul in January. The forest was created with the advice and supervision of Yale University’s School of Forestry and local foresters, and will be inaugurated in 2008. It occupies 50 acres in Fioletova in Lori Marz.
"As a result of the generosity of our donors, we have been able to recover this eroded area that will eventually turn into a beautiful green place commemorating the eternal memory of Hrant Dink. With this living monument every single seedling that has been put in the soil with such love and care will symbolize the life and work of Hrant Dink," stated ATP Deputy Director Mher Sadoyan.
In addition to the large-scale reforestation and tree-growing initiatives, children and adults in Gegharkunik and Lori continued participating in special trainings conducted by ATP specialists. ATP collaborated with schools, community leaders, and residents to build a better sense of responsibility for running the fruit orchards established by ATP and organized professional trainings on agriculture for farmers and nursery employees. In addition, hundreds of teachers in Armenia were trained in the implementation of ATP’s environmental curriculum, "Plant an Idea, Plant a Tree."
ATP’s Community Tree Planting (CTP) Program planted 73,500 trees at 170 community sites in Armenia this year. The trees are checked regularly by CTP monitors, who work closely with the local administration and residents.
Prior to tree planting, CTP monitors provide special training to the community on planting techniques. As a result of diligent care and continuous monitoring, the survival rate of the trees at ATP’s community sites is 90 percent, in spite of the variable and sometimes harsh climate conditions.
"Our program has been praised for the hard work performed in various regions of Armenia. Every year we receive a vast number of gratitude letters from the mayors of the cities and villages where ATP is implementing tree planting," stated CTP Program Manager Anahit Gharibyan.
"This year the demand for fruit and decorative trees was extremely high–and we do our best to fulfill all of these requests for communities that want to partner with us," added Gharibyan. "The saplings produced in ATP’s nurseries in Karin and Khachpar villages are re-greening many of Armenia’s sites for the prosperous future of our next generation."
Since 1994, ATP has planted and restored more than two million trees and created hundreds of jobs for impoverished Armenia’s in tree-regeneration programs. The organization’s three tiered initiatives are tree planting, community development to reduce poverty and promote self-sufficiency, and environmental education to protect Armenia’s precious natural resources.