On May 27, 2022, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC approved a grant worth CHF 12,000,000 for an economic development intervention in Armenia and launched an international tender process to identify an implementing partner. Titled “Sustainable and Inclusive Growth in Mountainous Armenia” SIGMA, this new SDC project will reduce poverty in mountainous areas of Armenia in an inclusive, innovative and climate-aware manner. With a duration of 10 years, SIGMA’s geographic focus will be on the poorest regions in Northern Armenia, reaching areas at an altitude of more than 1500m.
To achieve climate change-compatible and inclusive economic growth in mountainous Armenia, the SIGMA project will work with different players of local economies and the government, to the benefit of poorest rural households. With an innovative approach, SIGMA will launch and establish cooperation between the drivers of rural growth, which the project defines as “catalysts”, and the rest of mainly small businesses and farmers. “Catalysts” are rural entrepreneurs who are ready to take additional risks for profit but eventually in favor of local economic growth as such. Those can be investors, buyers, bigger farmers, suppliers of agricultural inputs, or tourism-related enterprises. Through the project, small businesses and farms will improve their services and products, offering those for a higher value to the “catalysts” to be sold to new and expanded markets.
Working at an altitude of more than 1500m, the project will aim at leveraging growth in niche areas where mountainous regions have a comparative advantage. Sectors such as rural agriculture, wild botanicals, rural tourism, agricultural technologies, which do not harm the environment and contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation, will be consistently pursued.
The project’s geographic focus will prioritize the poorest regions in Northern Armenia, namely Tavush, Gegharkunik, Lori, and Shirak. Starting on May 23, 2022 with a tender process, it will have a preparatory phase of 17 months. After that, the phase of implementation will last at least for 10 years (December 2023- 2033), with Swiss funds amounting in total to CHF 12,000,000. During its first phase (2023 -2026), SIGMA will reach at least 3000 household, and further extend to 10’000 household by the end of its second phase. The project’s implementing partner will be selected through a Tender procedure, details on which are announced here.
The SIGMA project is highly synergetic with other SDC development interventions in Armenia and in the wider region, as well as with a number of Armenian state policies. In Armenia, the project will draw linkages with the Swiss funded projects: “Living Landscapes for Market Development in Armenia” (LILA), including linkages promoting sustainable and inclusive rural tourism; the “Improvement of Local Self-Governance in Armenia”; “Modernizing Vocational Education and Training in Agriculture in Armenia (MAVETA); and the Regional “Women Economic Empowerment Programme” (WEE). In the wider South Caucasus region, the SDC sees a potential of upscaling SIGMA, going beyond the Armenian border, extending its synergies to the Swiss-funded Rural Development projects in Georgia.