Economic Development Program
Our Economic Development Program gives people and communities the tools they need to improve their lives through access to resources, education, skills training, and other types of assistance. While the COVID-19 pandemic did pose great challenges during 2020, particularly on infrastructure rehabilitation, we were able to surmount many of them by adapting to online and remote trainings methods and distributions.
Economic Development Highlighted Beneficiary
The launch of Sos Danielyan’s metalwork production enterprise was made possible due to FAR’s “Start Your Business” initiative. Sos, 46, along with 36 other participants benefitted from the five-day training program, which is part of the Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program Program (BCPP). The training enabled him to learn some valuable lessons as well as receive financial support. Other participants have also kicked off their respective service, agriculture and wine production businesses.
“The training helped me formulate and pitch my business idea with a clear plan and budget, as well as an implementation strategy,” said Sos, who noted that this has been his dream for many years. He is the only one in Armenia’s rural Berd Region who produces metal nets which serve as material for building fencing for gardens, fields, and houses, thus putting his product in high demand.
His customers are mainly from his own Navur Village, as well as from nearby Chinchin and Nerkin Karmiraghbyur villages, and Berd City.
Sos and his father had the same business some 20 years ago, but making the nets back then was difficult and time consuming. Eventually, they shut down.
“The new machine I purchased thanks to BCPP’s program is very easy to use; I can produce a net of 1.5 by 10 meters in two to three hours. Before, it would take me 24 hours,” said Sos, who added that the nets are of good quality and last from 5 to 10 years. "I am very pleased with my business, which has become my main source of income. In the course of one year, I have received orders worth 2 million AMD,” he said.
Gyumri Information Technology Center
In May, GTech launched new online courses for all the regions in Armenia. The initiative was a long-awaited opportunity for many parts of the country and the response was very enthusiastic. As the courses were offered online, there was no need to separate the groups by geographic regions, so the completion of the groups was made based on content and specialization.
GTech also partnered with Digitain and Ameriabank 2, which will introduce new and modern digital tools in the banking system to young people in Tavush, Vayots Dzor, Lori, and Shirak regions. The students had the opportunity to be involved in the development processes of the application created by Ameriabank and get practical knowledge of modern opportunities.
GTech was also tasked to develop a digital platform that will also enhance the tourism industry by offering new innovation ideas for development of tourism in the Shirak Region of Armenia.
The new realities facing Armenia and Artsakh during 2020 propelled Gyumri Information Technology Center (GTech) to review its strategy and approach. COVID-19 ceased all in-person trainings, shifting everything to distance learning, yet without disrupting the work of this leading IT training institution. In fact, new groups started in Kotayk, Vayots Dzor, and Tavush regions. And while GTech plans to resume in-person courses when conditions allow, this experience has proven that the institute will be able to continue to offer a strengthened hybrid approach to learning with flexibility in training on different levels of knowledge and skills, and able to reach even more areas of the country with minimal cost.
GTech continued to provide IT training in the Shirak and Lori, Tavush, Vayots Dzor, and Aragatsotn regions.
In February, GTech started a pilot project in the province of Kotayk by establishing a unit in support of expanding local efforts in 3D modeling.
A pilot project paired 30 Armenian girls currently studying at university with five mentors in the U.S. who then worked with them on their various interests in programming, exploring web design, Java, MS Office Products, HTML Webpage Building Project, and the Beginner Python Project.
Trainings in IT engineering, which included software engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering, among other things, were launched with high school students around the country.
GTech also provided web programming and graphic design classes to 18 young people who were displaced from Artsakh. The experience was impactful as five of them decided to continue to pursue IT at GTech after returning to Stepanakert.
Small Business Assistance Program
Nine Syrian-Armenian families received financial support during 2020 as part of the Small Business Assistance Program (SBA), which assists Syrian-Armenian entrepreneurs. Six of these recipients established their business with FAR’s support.
The SBA has made a successful impact on the Syrian-Armenian community, contributing to a broader effort made by the government and international bodies to economically incorporate Syrians in Armenia. All 37 beneficiaries who have been assisted by the program since its start in 2016 have remained in Armenia, having often created bountiful lives for themselves.
After such great success among the Syrian-Armenian population, SBA expanded during 2020 to reach out beyond the Syrian-Armenian community to residents of the Ijevan Region of Tavush Province. This region, which has seen violence due to clashes with Azerbaijan, has great potential in agriculture and hospitality, which the project aims to help strengthen.
Nine residents of northern rural areas received financial support and promotion to run small businesses focusing on viniculture, auto repair, textiles/sewing, honey production, and food and hospitality. Selected participants include those who are running jewelry production businesses, an Eastern spices shop, and an auto repair business, among other areas. While COVID-19 complicated the endeavor of setting up these businesses, many managed to have restricted activities starting from the summer.
Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program
The Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP) completed its seventh year in 2020, continuing its work to break the endemic cycle of poverty in the Berd Region of Armenia’s Tavush Province, which is one of the nation’s poorest. BCPP combines economic activity, health, education, psychosocial support, and infrastructure initiatives to help communities and individuals transform themselves.
The team at FAR’s Berd Office remained steadfast despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the Artsakh War. Tavush sits along the border with Azerbaijan which has subjected its people to intermittent violence over the years. In addition, many displaced from Artsakh also came to Berd, ultimately placing a greater strain on the region’s infrastructure and communities.
For those financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency assistance was given to 225 families in the form of clothing and hygiene supplies.
This assistance was also carried over to the children who benefit from free and nutritious meals as part of BCPP’s malnutrition program. During the closure of schools and daycares 1,315 children who attend any of the 19 BCPP-supported daycares received monthly dry food packages with healthy recipes for themselves and their families. Just as when school is in session, the meals follow World Food Program standards.
Public health initiatives during this time were boosted by several trainings for young mothers on COVID-19 as well as other pediatric diseases, such as respiratory infections, and nutrition-related issues like stunting. All were conducted remotely and on schedule as they were prior to the pandemic.
More than 35 healthcare professionals and educators from around Tavush Province also underwent remote-adapted training on children’s cognitive development.
In addition, BCPP’s hobby and extracurricular groups, which provide 800 young people with constructive outlets in a region with a paucity of options for recreation, were interrupted by COVID-19. Yet, instructors got creative and began meeting virtually to allow children and youth to pursue interests like painting, singing, and knitting.
During the war, First Aid Kits were distributed to 200 emergency specialists/volunteers in border villages in Tavush.
Public health initiatives were also carried out, including organization of a series of lectures for primary healthcare specialists about COVID-19, who are based in Berd, and a conference on children’s cognitive development.
Through the “Start Your Business” training project 11 residents of Aygepar Village were selected to receive financial support to kick-start their business ideas. Seventeen residents from the Berd Region received combined grant and loan packages in 2020 with which they could start up or sustain their small businesses. All received technical and financial support throughout Armenia’s lockdown.
In addition, courses in branding and financial literacy, for instance, were carried out via distance learning applications.
While many of BCPP’s infrastructure rehabilitation activities had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and tensions in this border region during the Artsakh War, progress was made nevertheless, particularly in the education sector.
Eight different schools were improved during 2020. The N1 Kindergarten in Ijevan was redone, refurnished, and is now host to 180 kids. The gymnasium at Artsvaberd Secondary School was fully renovated. Three additional school science labs were fully renovated, as were two technology classrooms, along with various classroom renovations, furnishings, and refurbishments at various other schools.
Any additional funds for renovations that were put on hold were redirected to FAR’s emergency response to COVID-19
During 2020, the Tavsho Hatik Agro-Processing Center in Norashen Village opened. With the capacity to process, clean, and package hundreds of pounds of vegetables and beans, 20 farmers are now able to better utilize and maximize their products for increased sales.
Finally, the Mardigian Child Protection Center in Berd continued to provide rehabilitation and prevention services to children and their families in person as well as remotely.
Other Development Projects
In 2020, FAR also launched the start of “Boosting Responsible Financial Behavior and Kick Start Business Activism Among Rural Population” project to provide financial literacy and business plan development trainings in four villages of Tavush Province. The project includes online business trainings aimed at improving the financial literacy of those who wish to start businesses in Tavush. Eighteen aspiring entrepreneurs participated, and they continue to develop their business plans.
Through the Young Farmers Association of Achajur Villages young farmers received a tractor in order to better work their land. Sixty hectares of land were cultivated during the first season.
Many farmers also received fertilizers to cultivate their lentils, beans and other crops and help prevent food insecurity. Fruit seedings were also distributed to families.
By the Numbers
young people from Artsakh given free web programming and graphic design classes from GTech.
families were provided with emergency assistance from BCPP.
families received financial support from the SBA during 2020.
entrepreneurs received support from BCPP to launch their own small businesses.
children and their families received food assistance via BCPP
children and youth supported by BCPP hobby groups throughout the pandemic.
emergency specialists and volunteers in Tavush Province received first aid kits during the war thanks to BCPP.
Avanessians Family Foundation
Gregory & Meline Toufayan
Harry & Suzanne Toufayan
Howard & Catherine Atesian Family Foundation
Medzorian Family Foundation
SJS Charitable Trust
TF Educational Foundation