09 Sep, 2022

Forests for Armenia’s Future

Sosé & Allen's Memorial Forest (Stepanavan, Armenia)

Armenia Tree Project (ATP) celebrates planting 7 million trees, including our forests in Armenia’s northern regions covering over 1,200 hectares (nearly 3,000 acres.)

In 2004, ATP recognized the trend of deforestation and decided to scale up its planting in order to reverse the situation and mitigate the long-term consequences. The decline of Armenia’s forest cover is due to unsustainable logging, use of wood as fuel for cooking and heating, deforestation by the mining industry, and climate change.

A significant action towards combating global warming is planting trees to absorb and store the carbon dioxide produced by energy production. ATP’s Forestry manager, Vahe Matsakyan provides calculations about how much carbon is absorbed by just one of our forests, the Hrant Dink Memorial forest planted in 2007 covering an area of 11 hectares. He shares that one hectare of mature forest grows 1.5 cubic meters per year. For the growth of 1.5 cubic meters per year, the forest absorbs 1.8 tons of CO2 and converts it to .5 tons of carbon biomass. Therefore, over the 11 hectares, the Hrant Dink Memorial Forest absorbs 19.8 tons of CO2 per year.

ATP’s afforestation efforts, planting a new forest where trees were not previously growing, create infrastructure and introduce income opportunities to the local population while also providing a buffer zone for natural forest areas and preventing further degradation. Desertification has been identified as a threat facing Armenia. Erosion, habitat loss, and diminished supplies of clean water are also consequences of low level of forest cover.

To launch the forestry program, in conjunction with support from the Mirak Family, ATP established a reforestation nursery in Margahovit Village in 2005, dedicated to producing seedlings for forest sites in Northern Armenia. This nursery has enabled ATP to accelerate its experimentation and cultivation, and attain a higher-than-global-average tree survival rate.

In 2019, ATP opened an experimental greenhouse in Margahovit, sponsored by the Bilezikian family in memory of Charles G. Bilezikian. At the Charles G. Bilezikian Greenhouse seed testing on pine, oak and maple trees is done with the use of a germination table. This technology allows our foresters to document the quality of the seeds they are propagating with scientific experiments regulating light, moisture, and temperature. The greenhouse has the capacity to produce on average 30,000 seedlings per year for ATP’s forestry program. This year, our staff were able to produce a second harvest of seedlings, doubling the output of the greenhouse. Another factor the greenhouse offers is the use of containers, which are essential for new tree growth. The containers enable ATP to grow healthier trees and increase tree survival rates. An additional benefit to containers is that they allow for a longer planting seasons.

ATP’s specialists selected particular species that enable forest connectivity, regeneration and provide migration corridors for indigenous wildlife. ATP currently plants forests primarily of Pine and Oak trees, as they are the main species of Armenia’s indigenous forests. In addition, ATP plants supporting species of deciduous trees including ash, maple, wild apple, wild pear and others to ensure the forests cultivate biodiversity and are not monocultures. Aram Movsisyan, our Mirak Nursery Manager shares that he collects Red Bud Maple seeds (Acer trautevetteri) listed in Armenia's Red Book of rare and endangered species. His plan is to cultivate the indigenous trees in the Mirak Nursery and use them in ATP's forestry plantings throughout Armenia, helping the species thrive.

Throughout the year, our staff monitor our forests, to check on the health and well-being of the trees, as well as the fencing keeping livestock out and delineating the public land. The staff also administer pesticide. In our more recently planted forests, we cut the grass to allowing the saplings to grow stronger, without being overcrowded by the weeds.

The most important factor in our forestry program is the people of Armenia. Our forestry program creates jobs for rural villagers in regions where opportunities are limited.  As many heads of households leave their families to go abroad in search of work, our seasonal planting program provides work for around 150 people in the spring and fall planting seasons.  For a few weeks, men and women from different backgrounds such as construction workers, homemakers, nurses, and agriculture laborers work side by side on the hillsides planting tens of thousands of trees. The work of planting trees offers the villagers significant financial help, the earnings by planting these trees helps make their lives easier.

As the villagers plant the trees, they express their plans to bring their families back to the forests, for their future generations to enjoy the shade and clean air provided by the trees they are planting.

Since 1994, ATP has been using trees to improve the standard of living in Armenia and Artsakh, focusing on aiding those with the fewest resources. If you would like to support ATP”s forestry program please visit www.ArmeniaTreeProject.org/en/donation.

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Armenia Tree Project, established in 1994, is a non-profit organization that revitalizes Armenia’s and Artsakh’s most vulnerable communities through tree-planting initiatives, and provides socio-economic support and growth. It is based in Yerevan, Armenia and has an office in Woburn, Massachusetts. For more information, please visit ArmeniaTree.org