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UNEP/GEF “Enhancing livelihoods in rural communities of Armenia through mainstreaming and strengthening agricultural biodiversity conservation and utilization” project

The project will take forward some of the major outputs and results from the UNEP/GEF project ‘In-situ Conservation of Crop Wild Relatives through Enhanced Information Management and Field Application’ undertaken in part in Armenia in collaboration with 4 other countries. This project, due to be completed during 2009, has demonstrated the critical importance of agro-ecosystems and natural protected areas in conserving crop wild relatives. The expertise mobilized in this project will provide essential inputs to the work proposed here, especially the task of trying to provide better connectivity between agricultural and natural landscapes. The Ministry of Nature Protection have recently spearheaded national efforts to conserve in situ important crop wild relatives and other agricultural biodiversity, they are well placed to promote greater connectivity between natural and agricultural landscapes in Armenia.

To achieve the objective of this project, to ensure that agricultural biodiversity is optimally conserved and supports adaptation to environmental and agricultural challenges in Armenia and provides a sustainable basis for enhanced utilization to improve rural livelihoods, this project using a participatory approach, will attempt to address these challenges, barriers and threats through strategic interventions at the national and local levels by selecting one location from  the following 3 locations and through the components elaborated below:

  1. Ararat valley – Is a center of globally important wild relatives of cereals, feed and some vegetable crops. Three of two reserves “Erebuni” and “Khosrov Forest” are located in this region. This region is an important area of agricultural development of agriculture, At the same time, it is the most urbanized region of the country with about 70 percent of Armenian population living here. As a consequence there are major threats from human activities on the environment and biodiversity. The area is located within Ararat and Armavirmarzes (administrative units), the Ararat valley represents around 13% of Armenia’s arable lands and has an area of 32000 ha (10.8% of country’s territory). It provides almost half of total agricultural production for the country and represents a rich mixed farming system. This area is also home to the Mera Eco 99 demonstration farm and a number of protected areas containing globally important agricultural biodiversity.
  2. Sevan Basin – located in Gerarquniqmarz the area is divided into two zones. The first involves lands with an altitude up to 2000m above sea level, while the second involves lands above 2000m. The area is an important fresh water resource which creates unique micro-climates for the Sevan region. It is a mountain-locked region which also creates exceptional conditions for unique plant populations. Most of the area is conserved in Sevan National Park. It borders with “Dilijan” National Park where many globally important wild relatives of fruit-bearing trees, feed and vegetable species are grown. Region plays great role in growing root-crop species such as potato and beet. It is one of the exceptional regions for eco-tourism but there are possible unfavorable effects of tourism on the basin. Generally the area is cultivated with potato, forages and cereals.
  3. Zangezur region –located within SiunikMarz. The Shikahogh Reserve is located within SiunikMarz, its purpose to protect oak, hornbeam and oak-hornbeam forests, oriental beech, yew, oriental plane and animals. According to approximate data it comprises 1100 species of vascular plants. About 70 species growing in the reserve are registered in the Red Data Book of Armenia. Zangezur region is unique for its dry-tropical wild plant-species and its cultivated national species. Goris and Sisian regions are located within the borders of Zangezur region, they represent some of the highest areas of Armenia. Goris forests are famous for their rich diversity of wild relatives of cultivated fruit-bearing threes. The area is famous for local varieties of legumes, especially grain and fodder plants. The mining industry is developing in the region, which can have negative impact on the environment. The region has a rich farming system comprising high diversity of fruits including grape, walnuts, pears, fig, plum, apple, and beans as vegetables. In the first subzone (up to 900m) crop cultivation is under irrigation.