Surrounded by farmers, veterinarians, and others working with the agricultural sector of Vardenis, and in the company of the Minister of Agriculture, Sergo Karapetyan, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills, Jr. kicked off a month-long focus by the U.S. Embassy on agriculture and rural development with the opening of the latest Farm and Veterinary Service Center on Friday, October 30.
This new Farm and Veterinary Service Center in the Vardenis community of Gegharkunik province is one of two centers being established by the Center for Agribusiness and Rural Development (CARD) Foundation, as part of the USAID-funded Development of Private Extension Service System in Armenia (DPESSA) project.
“The U.S. government is committed to partnering with all sectors of Armenia. And the agriculture sector is one of the most vital and important economic sectors in the country,” Ambassador Mills said. “We at the Embassy, mostly through our USAID programs, are committed to working with Armenian farmers and livestock owners to ensure they have the tools they need to compete and prosper in the local and regional agriculture markets.”
The Farm and Veterinary Service Center opened by the Ambassador will provide veterinarians, farmers, and agribusinesses with technical and business assistance to address animal health and husbandry issues. The center in Vardenis is designed to be a regional hub, disseminating advanced farm business techniques throughout the entire area. By bringing best practices to those providing farm and veterinary services, as well as animal breeding and husbandry, it will help increase the knowledge and skills of those living and working in rural Armenia.
The center will also facilitate the development of new market contacts and help local residents gain access to finance services. The center will host regular workshops and training programs led by Armenian and foreign experts. They plan to serve more than 2,000 local farmers from seven communities in Gegharkunik. Organizers of the center believe that an effective knowledge extension system can help farmers shift from resource-based farming to technology-driven farming, increasing agricultural production and incomes.
“Using the knowledge gained at this service center, we hope to see farmers enhance their professional skills, expand their operations, and become more future-oriented.” Ambassador Mills said.
This is the second such center established by the Center for Agribusiness and Rural Development under the USAID-funded DPESSA program, a two-year project launched in February 2014. Through the program, USAID is working to empower rural communities by helping them identify opportunities for economic growth and develop the skills to take advantage of those opportunities.
“We cannot forget that one of Armenia’s largest engines of economic growth is out here in rural communities like Vardenis,” Ambassador Mills said. “That is why this month, the Embassy will focus its efforts on highlighting the many ways we partner with the Ministry of Agriculture, Armenian farmers, local officials, and others to help grow the economy in rural Armenia. As a partner to rural Armenia, we are there to provide the skills, knowledge, tools, and resources that hard-working Armenian farmers need to provide food locally and to compete in the local and regional markets.”
Joining Ambassador Mills for the official launch ceremony in Vardenis were Governor of Gegharkunik Rafik Grigoryan and other representatives of the local community.