15 December marked the start of a new EU-funded project in Armenia. The Organic Agriculture Support Initiative (OASI) will help to develop the potential of the Armenian organic agriculture sector over the next three years. The project is co-funded and implemented by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of the Austrian Development Cooperation.
Agriculture is a major source for employment in Armenia and contributes to almost 20% of its GDP. The country has high potential for organic agricultural production, which is believed to contribute significantly to improve rural livelihoods in a sustainable manner in the future. “Organic agriculture development is a priority defined in the Sustainable Agriculture Development Strategy of the RA Ministry of Agriculture. It aims to support farmers and agribusinesses to invest in organic agriculture; increase production; explore new international markets and ensure availability of organic products locally,” said RA Deputy Minister of Agriculture Mr. Armen Harutyunyan.
“We are happy to support the Organic Agriculture Support Initiative. It confirms our commitment to the rural sector in Armenia, and will be complement support that is already being provided through the EU funded ENPARD Programme, where we also cooperate very successfully with the Austrian Development Agency,” said the Head of EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador H.E. Piotr Antoni Świtalski.
This project specifically aims at increasing local value-added of Armenian organic products as well as assisting higher efficiency of relevant public and private institutions. It will support the RA Ministry of Agriculture with creating a clear and enabling legal environment for organic producers and processors in line with international standards. OASI will also strengthen extension services for the promotion of organic technologies and support educational institutions through curricula development. The project has a budget of € 3.3 million and will be implemented over the course of three years.
A big portion of the project support will be rolled out directly to Armenian producers and processors through a call for grant applications. Small grants are available for smallholder farmers seeking to start, diversify or expand organic production, while bigger grants will be available to already established organic farmers, co-operatives and processors for enhancing productivity and market access.
To convince Armenian farmers and consumers about the benefits and value-added of organic agriculture, an awareness raising campaign will be carried out. “Austria has a long standing history of organic agriculture and today almost 20% of agricultural crop land is cultivated organically. We strive to contribute with this experience to our projects that support small-scale farmers in enhancing agricultural production and marketing. Organic agriculture allows for an optimal use of natural resources while preserving the environment and biodiversity at the same time”, said Robert Zeiner, Director Programmes and Projects International of the Austrian Development Agency (ADA).
EU assistance to Armenia has reached over € 500 million since 1992, with annual support growing progressively over the years. The Austrian Development Agency has been supporting Armenia since 2011 as a priority country for development cooperation with a specific focus on improving the agricultural sector.