Armenia Food Security Sector - spotlight on livestock issues
Livestock farming is the main economic activity for the poorest households in rural areas of Armenia. In recent years, there have been observed an existing and potentially growing market demand for milk and meat, access to credit for the farmers, as well as state assistance in animal healthcare and initiated reforms in food safety to increase competitiveness in export markets. Despite these developments, numerous problems in this area remain. Some of those problems are the lack of market access, community level veterinary services, knowledge and skills for appropriate animal care, milk and meat production, feeding practices, and challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 opens up new opportunities
The backlash on the livestock sector in Armenia due to the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is yet to be fully felt. Current preliminary observations highlight constraints of several livestock value chains, as the actors involved show low adaptive capacity when it comes to adapting operations and addressing pandemic related challenges. It has become apparent that additional investments and finance will be required to preserve the farming and processing capacities at pre-crisis level, and further support the livestock sector as a whole.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic is not only a crisis with numerous challenges – it is also an opportunity. While the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and its implementing Armenian partner, the Strategic Development Agency (SDA), are addressing the COVID-19 related challenges with new funds and targeted measures, future prospects are being explored as well. Shifting the paradigm, the SDC plans to go beyond the beaten tracks, expanding the ongoing livestock development program. Together with local and international partners, the SDC is seeking for new ways to develop a forward-looking approach and related more sustainable and systemic interventions. The overall vision of the planned intervention is to establish the links and deepen the synergies between the already well-performing agricultural value chains with the rural tourism sector, while ensuring a more consistent and sustainable use of natural resources. The SDC is confident that this approach has the potential to result in an all-win situation: further increase of agricultural productivity in the livestock sector, the conservation and protection of the natural capital and biodiversity, and an increase of livelihood opportunities in rural Armenia.
Switzerland’s Assistance in the Livestock Sector
Similar to other countries in the region, small-scale farms with fragmented land holdings dominate the farm structure in Armenia. The livestock sector, on its turn, is dominated by cattle and small ruminants, basing itself on traditional husbandry systems, which makes it extremely difficult to promote investments and efficient practices. The usage of traditional methods also prevents the improvements in productivity and in animal health control at farm level.
In spite of the challenges, livestock farming in Armenia has a strong potential for growth. The livestock development programs, largely funded by the SDC and implemented by the SDA, aim to fulfill this evident potential. Dating back to 2006, the cooperation between the SDC and the SDA started from an intervention focused on the development of the veterinary service provision. Since then, the program expanded significantly, covering 200 communities and 7000 families in the South and the North of Armenia. With its long-lasting commitment and the accumulated experience, SDC’s current program ensures better access to farm support services, inputs and markets, as well as effective management of natural resources for the Armenian farmers, leading them to the increase of their farms’ productivity and improvement of their livelihood.
The experience gained over the course of the programs’ implementation shows interconnected gaps that include lack of access to farm support services, poor productivity and quality at farm level, low competitiveness of local produce on local and international markets, as well as low incentives to invest in milk and meat value chains. With targeted and complex interventions, which are focused on overcoming those gaps, the program aims to foster sector development and contribute to an increase in food sufficiency, an improvement in living standards of the farmers and a perspective for the rural youth. Experience also shows that state institutions and public policies play an important role in the promotion of environmentally friendly and climate adaptive practices, such as sustainable pasture management and diversified fodder production. These practices are becoming more crucial for securing national resources for livestock sustainable development.
Quick Facts of the projects
SDC-supported and SDA-implemented projects serve around 7% of all Armenian municipalities and more than 21% of communities/settlements with a livestock-based agriculture. Since 2006 , with SDC’s assistance, 150 farm support services (such as veterinary, cattle artificial insemination, supply of agro inputs) established or improved operations to serve livestock farmers in 200 rural settlements. Effective pasture management strategies and environmentally friendly practices for fodder production were promoted in 167 rural settlements to ensure sustainable fodder resources for livestock. About 65 agro businesses invested in milk collection, processing and marketing and 140 rural settlements benefited in terms of improved access to raw milk market.
In the South of Armenia, the program is active in Tavush and Vayots Dzor marzes. In the North, with co-funding from the Austrian Development Agency, the program is active in Gegharkunik, Tavush, Lori and Shirak marzes.
The latest available data (2017 compared to 2014) shows that cattle productivity in the project area increased by 13%, ensuring higher incomes for 29’650 farmers (of which 34% female) from milk and meat. About 970 jobs (of which 32% for women) were created in milk and meat value chains. In the South, the number of households benefited from the project comprised almost 5,900 families (in total 15,100 farmers of which 42% female). After all, the gathered data highlights 62% increase of net income from livestock for the households involved in the project.