12 Jun, 2021

Restoration of Riparian Zones in Armenia: Using willow cuttings and cleaning rivers to provide economic relief to local villagers

Seasonal workers from Makenis, the Danielyan brothers

In response to the socio-economic consequences of COVID-19 on Armenia and its people, the Armenian Government implemented a series of 25 measures to provide support in 2020 and 2021. Among these measures, one was aimed at improving the environment as well as helping the Armenian people.

It was in the framework of the 15th Measure of the RA Government that about 2 million willow cuttings were planted on the riverbanks of Armenia's highlands (1800-2400 m) in 7 regions of Armenia in May-June 2020. The “Restoration of Riparian Zones in Armenia” COVID-19 Response Project is the continuation of the 15th Measure focusing on Gegharkunik region of Armenia both in 2020 and 2021. The project is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the RA Ministry of Environment, and the RA Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure. The local supporting partner organizations are ATP Charitable Foundation, “ISSD” Innovative Solutions for Sustainable Development of Communities” NGO, and "Blejan" ecological, social, business support.

Within the framework of the project,­­ temporary employment and income have been provided to the people who have been most affected by the social and economic consequences of the pandemic, and at the same time, pressing environmental issues have been addressed.

ATP is responsible for administering plantings in the riparian zones of Gegharkunik region, in which 520,000 willow tree cuttings were planted from May 3-27. ATP experts held training sessions with the temporary workers and supervised the plantings. Planting locations included Makenis, Akhrapradzor, Vardenis, Geghhovit, Mets Masrik, Sarukhan, Gavar, Madina, Lanjaghbyur and Gegharkunik communities.

Around 253 people from these communities were hired to assist in planting activities in May 2021. Displaced refugees from Artsakh, who are currently living in the regions in Gegharkunik, were also hired as temporary workers to assist in the plantings. Workers were trained to collect cuttings from Sevan National Park, to be prepared for planting, and then plant.

“My brother and I were born and raised here. We’re both military servicemen. We served in Karvajar (Artsakh) and now we’re serving here, on top of that mountain. We’ve dedicated our lives to our country,” said seasonal worker from Makenis, Hovik Danielyan. “Whenever we have free time we usually spend it on farming, and other projects like this one. The work is going really well, and it’s all for the good of our community.”

Plantings concluded on May 27th. Willow cuttings and other local tree species were planted, and solid waste was collected from the river beds, river banks and the nearby areas. Five different species of willow cuttings were used, and all were extracted from Sevan National Park. Additionally, 12,000 wild fruit trees from ATP’s Mirak Nursery were planted in the Gegharkunik communities. This ongoing restoration project will contribute to the protection of Lake Sevan and will have a long-term positive impact on biodiversity, slope protection, water quality, as well as provide firewood in the future. In addition, it provides socio-economic support to the most vulnerable community members in Armenia.