|A View From the Inside|
It's been several months (of meetings and proposals) since our decision to put together a project that will assist the Bardzravan community in Syunik in securing a market for their milk and help them get on their feet. Everything seems to be in place - the willingness of the farmers, an interested partner organization that promises to push forward the project and secure its success, the dairy producer that promises to buy the milk output of the community and our willingness to secure the finances for the project and put time and effort into making this a showcase for later expansion of the project.
The idea behind the project is simple and derives from the same formula we have been using in our economic facilitation program projects - a 0% interest loan for acquisition of equipment that costs more than a farmer or a group of farmers can afford to pay right away. This equipment enables farmers to improve their practices and get better results. In some cases it is a milking unit that enables a small farmer to increase the quality and the quantity of milk produced, in other cases it is a cow that yields more milk. In this particular case it is a cooling tank that will enable Bardzravan to start selling their milk and concentrate on milk production.
Bardzravan is a community of 46 households located not far from Goris. The community is 273 km from Yerevan and is 33km from the administrative center of the region. It is one of the hundreds of communities in Armenia that have a potential but is forgotten by almost everyone and is left to die slowly with no action from the government - local or central.
When we first started discussing this project, the biggest and the most obvious concern was the size and the capacity of Bardzravan. Economically it just does not make sense to invest in a community that will return a $10,000 investment with a 0% interest rate in 5 years. In a standard market environment this would never happen and no bank or financial institution would ever consider a loan for this community. But we have what we have. You either assist a community in this condition, learning a lesson in the process, or you move on to communities that are in better condition and have more chances to survive the harsh economic realities - leaving the less fortunate ones on their own, and understanding that most of them will not make it. It’s just that so many communities are in this “less fortunate” state that the list of communities “beyond saving” is identical to the list of border villages and beyond.
After several meetings, a lot of e-mails and drafts of the proposal, we have finally received approval and signed a contract with Polish Aid to purchase a milk cooling tank for the Bardzravan community. The project will involve the organization training the local farmers on milk production practices and techniques. The project will also support another community in Syunik, enabling a second village to concentrate on milk production.