In December 2014, the European Union confirmed financial support with total value of €25 million to the Government of Armenia, within the programme ENPARD (European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development) Armenia. This programme is being implemented over three years, providing €20 million of budget support for the Government of Armenia to sustain agricultural and rural development. A further €5 million is being provided to support the Ministry of Agriculture and to promote the development of farmers groups and value adding chains throughout Armenia.
The budget support payments are being made over three years, and the 2016 payment of €7 million has just been transferred to the Government of Armenia. In confirming the payment, Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, commented: “I very much welcome the progress achieved in the implementation of this programme as a whole, including the valuable role played by the complementary assistance. I would therefore like to congratulate the Government and the Ministry of Agriculture in particular for the achievements in the context of this support.”
This support, in line with EU assistance priorities, contributes directly to achieving the Eastern Partnership key objective of reducing economic and social disparities. Given the high unemployment and lack of livelihoods and income, poverty levels in Armenia remain high, particularly in rural areas. Agriculture and subsistence farming represent a broad-based opportunity for food security and informal employment. Thus, there is a great need for agricultural and rural development through improving agricultural institutions, strengthening the capacity and performance of farmers associations and cooperatives, increasing access to affordable food, and supporting the roll-out of a general agricultural census. All of these areas are being supported through ENPARD Armenia.
Within the framework of the programme, over €5 million has been committed to UNIDO, UNDP and FAO to provide technical support to the Government of Armenia in close cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture, local authorities and other stakeholders. UNIDO and UNDP are working jointly to strengthen and establish producer groups and engage them effectively in value chain development. FAO provides technical assistance to the Ministry of Agriculture for institutional development and policy harmonization, as well as the roll-out of the national agricultural census. Beneficiaries of the programme are rural communities, farmers, producer group members, employees in agricultural value chains, and their families.
ENPARD is improving the lives of nearly 800 farmers directly, and indirectly 3,200 people, through the creation of agricultural cooperatives. The cooperatives have been provided with the latest equipment and technology, and their staff trained in the production of high quality products. 55 cooperatives have been formed and registration initiated under the Law on Agricultural Cooperatives. The farmer groups are producing buckwheat, European type high value cheeses, non-traditional vegetables such as broccoli, and dried fruits and herbs. In every case value is added to the products before sale. Members of the groups have invested nearly €240,000 of their own funds in their cooperatives, while partner development organizations have given or lent at favourable terms a further €150,000. All ENPARD products (to be available in stores from November 2016) will meet food safety standards, and will be certified. In addition, fourteen unique brands are being developed and will be registered.