YEREVAN—Armenia Tree Project (ATP) has recently completed its ninth year of reforestation with the planting of another 174,267 tree seedlings in Northern Armenia. This brings the total number of trees planted to 230,451 in 2013. The additional 56,000 trees were planted by ATP’s flagship Community Tree Planting program.
ATP was founded by Armenian-American philanthropist Carolyn Mugar, and the organization has now planted a total of 4,455,869 trees since 1994.
“We’re extremely proud of this result,” noted ATP Yerevan Director Areg Maghakian. “Our work is planting trees and we’ve done that with more than four million in the ground, but it’s also about people. ATP is creating green jobs in Armenia and connecting our programs with supporters all over the world. It’s a truly grassroots effort that will pay huge dividends in the future.”
With help from a substantial grant from Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2012, ATP began planting a new 20 hectare forest site in the town of Koghes in Lori. This spring, several thousand pine seedlings were added to the existing oak, ash, apple, and pear trees to finalize the forest planting.
In the summer, seasonal workers were hired to maintain the sites reforested by ATP. “Because it was such a fertile year, some sites had to be maintained twice as the grass had been growing so quickly,” Maghakian emphasized.
In the fall, dozens of local villagers helped replant tree seedlings in a new forest being established in Tsaghkaber. The planting of this site in Lori was supported by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) of the Federal Republic of Germany through KfW as part of its International Climate Protection Initiative. The project was implemented by WWF Germany, WWF Caucasus, and WWF Armenia in cooperation with the Ministry of Nature Protection, the Ministry of Agriculture, and ATP.
ATP has collaborated with a number of other organizations over the past year. This summer, ATP organized a special tour for local media and organizations in the environmental sector. The tour included ATP’s Mirak Family Reforestation Nursery where more than half a million tree seedlings are being nurtured, along with the nearby Hrant Dink Memorial Forest and a new forest being established in the town of Katnajur. Yerevan-based Deem Communications participated in several events with ATP this year, including planting trees at a kindergarten in Margahovit.
ATP has also collaborated with the Homeland Development Initiative Foundation (HDIF), an organization which aims to nurture sustainable development initiatives in rural parts of Armenia. ATP employees in Margahovit discovered Samvel, a talented woodworker who was unemployed because he is wheelchair-bound, and introduced him to HDIF, which now sells his unique, handmade crafts.
ATP’s newest initiative, announced this fall in collaboration with Sosé and Allen’s Legacy Foundation, is the Sosé Thomassian and Allen Yekikian Memorial Forest. The young couple, who had strong ties both in Armenia and the diaspora, lost their lives in a tragic car accident in May 2013.
“Our goal is to create a living tribute to our dear friends. We’re also incorporating social media into this campaign,” explained Maghakian. “For every new ‘like’ of ATP’s Facebook page, five trees will be planted in the memorial forest. We hope the effort will attract at least 10,000 ‘likes’ in order to plant 50,000 trees and raise awareness of ATP’s mission.”
The municipality of Stepanavan has agreed to lease 73 hectares of land to ATP for 25 years and 25 percent of that land will be allocated to the Sosé and Allen Memorial Forest, where planting will commence in the spring of 2014.
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.