Working in Armenia's 'Valley of Honey'

12/14/2015

In Armenia’s Meghradzor region, UMCOR is working with Salli village residents to improve agriculture and redevelop irrigation systems.
A mountain top in Armenia’s “valley of honey.”

By Nicholas Jaeger*

November 20, 2015—High on a mountaintop in Armenia lies Meghradzor, known locally as “the valley of honey.” Wild beehives thrive here, and supply honey to both humans and bears. Berry bushes dot the plain, which is surrounded by dramatic peaks. It is here, in Meghradzor, at an elevation of more than 7,500 feet, that the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is engaged with residents of the village of Salli in critical agricultural development work.

In 2015, through its country office in Armenia, UMCOR helped Salli villagers establish a new agricultural cooperative, which will provide lower-cost technical services to its farmer and other community members for the long term. UMCOR Armenia supplied the co-op with a startup grant, a tractor and accessories, trainings, and technical assistance. Members already are seeing tangible benefits in increased yields.

UMCOR staff members and community members from Salli village inspecting the terminus of the closed channel pipeline, where irrigation water transfers to an open channel system.
UMCOR staff members and community members from Salli village inspecting the terminus of the closed channel pipeline, where irrigation water transfers to an open channel system. Photo: Nick Jaeger

All this is part of UMCOR Armenia’s Community Enhancement through Agricultural Support and Technical Assistance (CEASTA) project.

In a critical new area of the project, UMCOR is redeveloping an irrigation system to support the agricultural activities in Salli. Partnering with the U.N. Development Program’s Global Environment Facility (UNDP/GEF), UMCOR built a collection pool in the valley of honey and reconstructed nearly a thousand feet of irrigation pipeline.

The closed-channel pipeline, which supports the cultivation of cereals in 30 HA of farmland, replaces a defunct Soviet-era open-channel irrigation system. Because of UMCOR’s intervention, local farmers have been able to make the newly irrigated community lands productive, diversify their crops, and impede desertification.

Along with UMCOR Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Officer Morgan Richards and CEASTA Program Coordinator Armen Khalatyan, I recently visited Salli and the valley of honey. We trekked to the mountaintop to monitor the irrigation system, and together with the cooperative president, Salli’s mayor, and other UMCOR Armenia staff members, we walked the length of the irrigation system, inspecting the construction work.

“Not only does this irrigation system support community development in Salli village, but UMCOR now has the capacity to deliver similar irrigation interventions to other communities in need in Armenia,” said Khalatyan.

Indeed, given Salli’s success, UMCOR Armenia is already planning to implement another watershed development project in 2016, one that will provide villagers in two communities both irrigation water and potable water.

Your gift to UMCOR Sustainable Relief and Development, Advance #3021951, supports programs that are making a tangible difference in communities like Salli.