YEREVAN — According to official government reports, unemployment rates in Armenia will go up from 17.7 percent to 19 percent as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic. In an effort to alleviate the economic consequences, the Government of Armenia developed economic recovery programs. One such program was the environmentally friendly 15th anti-crisis measure, launched by the Ministry of Environment in May.
The ministry’s incentive aimed to establish coastal forest layers of indigenous willow tree species in highland river valleys, creating temporary jobs for rural dwellers in the process. Two million willow tree cuttings were planted by the end of the season and around 1,000 citizens were involved. The program covered seven provinces – with Armenia Tree Project leading the work in Gegharkunik province.
“We were very happy to partner with the Ministry on this project. ATP covered plantings along the banks of the rivers of Karchaghbyur, Argichi and Martuni and worked with community members who were recruited from those communities. Our team was out there every day, providing expertise and guidance,” says ATP Operations Manager Arthur Harutyunyan.
ATP saw to the planting of 299,107 willow tree cuttings, involving 147 locals in the process. The workers were instructed to follow social distancing rules.
Many turned out to be migrant workers, who had been forced to remain in the country because of corona, cutting them off from their livelihoods.
“We were drowning pretty much. This program gave us hope and something to hold on to until things get back to normal,” said one worker from Karchaghbyur, Gagik Gasparyan. Like many others in his community, where there are no job opportunities, Gagik was getting ready for his next trip to Russia where he could earn money and help sustain his family. “Some days I’m able to make about $20 by planting around 200 tree cuttings. It’s 50 AMD / 10 cents per tree, which isn’t a whole lot but it’s going to see me and my family through for a while, so I’m very thankful.”