08 Apr, 2021

Interview with Community Planting Monitor Aleksandr Mirzoyan

Aleksandr (Sasha) Mirzoyan works as a monitor for ATP’s Community Tree Planting program (CTP). He is responsible for organizing, overseeing and monitoring plantings in the provinces of Aragatsotn, Armavir, Shirak, Tavush, Syunik and Vayots Dzor. He has been working for ATP since 2015 and has a background in psychology, sociology, pedagogy and finances.


WE OFTEN HEAR THAT A CTP MONITOR MUST BE A GOOD PSYCHOLOGIST TO BE SUCCESSFUL. BASED ON YOUR EXPERIENCE, WHAT PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECT DOES PLANTING TREES HAVE ON PEOPLE?
I think the birth of any new life changes something in humans. Trees change people in a similar way that babies do. Once a seedling takes root, you begin to love it like you would your own child. You start to look after it, giving it your time and attention. We all get excited whenever someone is born, because it motivates us to think about the future, to work and to create.


CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORK?
I want to start off by saying that it’s a really great job. We help people and communities all over the country. When we return to sites to check on the trees and offer professional advice, we are always given a warm welcome. That tells me what we’re doing really helps people and they appreciate it. That’s the most important thing about this work - it’s kind and it’s helpful.

As for the technical part of the job, well, we work with nature. For instance, in the winter if there’s snow in the northern areas, we start plantings from the south and make our way up. In the fall, we start working our way down from the north, before snowfall begins, so on and so forth. We search for locations for plantings and at the same time we respond to requests for trees. Usually, what will happen is we’ll plant somewhere, then the community next door will hear about it and want to benefit too. Monitoring visits follow every planting. We return to the site soon after the planting to ensure the trees take root. We visit all our sites from time to time but priority is given to newly planted sites and 1 year-old sites, because they are in the most critical period of the planting process. Older sites are visited less often since the trees there are already out of that critical period, but those sites continue to remain in our plans. We usually visit older sites once or twice a year, and that’s mainly to see if the site requires any replacement trees or additional trees, and in general to stay up to date about the situation in order to be able to offer professional advice or assistance. Our partners in the communities tend to change from time to time (school principal, community leader etc.), so we make sure to go back and establish new connections and re-introduce the program.


WHEN ARE PLANTINGS MOST SUCCESSFUL?
In my opinion a lot of it depends on the relationship we build with our partners in the community. It’s also the most challenging part of the job - finding people in the community to collaborate with. Whoever we entrust in the community must realize the importance of the work we’re doing and be ready to take on the responsibility for the trees. You find different kinds of people - good, bad - but the important thing is that they understand our cause, and be responsible. Some of the most successful planting sites are supervised by people who aren’t exactly “nice” but rather strict and determined.


WHEN IT COMES TO TREES / PLANTINGS, WHAT DO YOU THINK ARMENIA NEEDS MOST? HOW DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF ARMENIA?
I think we need intensive fruit tree orchards the most. ATP is focusing more on dwarf fruit trees recently, because they produce fruit in less time. Armenia’s agriculture and economy sectors, its farmers and villagers can really benefit from those trees. In addition, I think our people need to move on to more modern methods of cultivation, while still preserving some of the traditional ways. As for the future, it’s bright! And the more CTP there is, the more the country will grow and prosper!

 

HOW WAS 2020 DIFFERENT FOR THE CTP PROGRAM?
I can’t recall a worse year. Somehow we managed to get some plantings done before corona really took over in the spring. But when the war came, the entire nation was broken. No one was concerned with anything but winning the war. In every household in every community, it was the same thinking and same concerns. The borders and the war were on everybody’s minds. It definitely had a worse effect than corona. We were all in a state of uncertainty. CTP did carry out its plantings but not on the scale that we had planned. One thing is for sure, all of this is going to have a negative impact on the economy, so it’s nice to know that the harvest from even a single one of our trees helps people.

 

IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF PLANTING IN BORDER VILLAGES?
You’ll have to come on a monitoring visit and see for yourself. In Chinari village, because the local cemetery is within view from the adversary’s posts, the villagers are forced to do funerals at night to avoid falling under fire. Our poplar trees were planted there to obstruct the view, and they are getting really tall! Besides that, when we distribute trees in border communities, it somehow helps keep people in the village. The trees become one of their main pastimes, and as you know, there are very few pastimes in these communities. They invest their time in the trees, they cultivate them and focus on growing them. The villagers are also able to sell the fruit and generate income to take care of their own needs

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CTP SITE AND WHY?
My favorite isn’t a CTP site yet, but I’m planning on turning it into one. There is a church in Vahramaberd, which I really love. It’s a touristic location and I'm going to organize a planting there first chance I get. Other than that, I think Grigor Lusavorich (Gregory the Illuminator) in Goris is one of our most beautiful planting sites we have. I really enjoy my visits to Shirak province as well, since I spent my childhood in Gyumri, where my mother is from. I also love going to Tavush, which is where I fell in love with my wife

 

SASHA SERVED IN THE ARMENIAN ARMY FROM 2008 – 2010 AS AN ARTILLERYMAN. HE WAS STATIONED IN KHARCHAGHBYUR, WHICH HE HELPED GREEN LATER ON AS AN ATP EMPLOYEE. HE RETURNED FROM HIS SERVICE AS A JUNIOR SERGEANT WITH 2 MEDALS. SASHA IS MARRIED TO ATP ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION PROGRAM MANAGER KRISTINE HOVSEPYAN.