Syunik Animal Market: transforming lighthouse development project into a social enterprise

Article, 23.08.2021

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation transforms one of its development projects in Armenia into a social enterprise. With the completion of the “Livestock Development in Armenia” program, the SDC shifts the ownership of the Syunik Animal Market SAM, giving it a change of function and a business perspective. With an additional contribution amounting to CHF 250’000 of financial support, the SDC renews and confirms the core principles of the SAM. 

Animal Market in Syunik region
Animal Market in Syunik region © FDFA

The majority of Syunik region’s population, which is the southernmost area of Armenia, depends on livestock breeding and grain cultivation. In 2006, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC launched a small-scale veterinary support project in Syunik, which later grew into one of its most prominent interventions in the country. With an initial coverage of 13 villages near Goris city, the small project assisted local veterinarians in improving animal health, thus contributing to the enhancement of milk quality in the region and primarily ensuring market access for the local farmers. With the project’s progress and expansion, several new components were added as means of diversification.

With its extended coverage of 100 villages in Syunik, Vayots Dzor in the year 2015, the small project scaled up into what is now known as the “Livestock Development in Armenia” program, enlisting the addition of a meat value-chain. In the frames of this new component, the Swiss funded project established an Animal Market in Syunik to serve the specific market needs of local small-scale farmers.

For more than 5 years now, the Syunik Animal Market SAM offers a wide range of services to farmers from nearby communities and other regions. The well-designed SAM infrastructure includes a trade outlet, dedicated showrooms for animals and agro inputs, a business support unit, a slaughterhouse and a tavern.

With its business support unit the SAM organizes trainings, seminars and conferences for farmers to build up a skilled workforce of livestock practitioners in the region. The trade outlet and the animal showroom sections, which include animal unloading ramps, indoor and outdoor barns, feeding and milking parlor, ensure full-range animal trade services for farmers and traders of the region and beyond. The agro inputs showroom, on the other hand, offers animal care and breeding supplies, veterinary medicine and inputs, agricultural tools and equipment for land cultivation, and more. The slaughterhouse provides cattle slaughtering services to the farmers in accordance with the most recent food safety regulations. 

Animal Market in Syunik region
Animal Market in Syunik region © FDFA

Aside from its main purpose of creating an effective dialog between the buyers and sellers, the SAM also serves as a great location for local and foreign guests, contributing to the development of the tourism development in the area. Here, the “Hatseni” tavern comes into play, offering traditional dishes prepared from products supplied by the local farmers. In addition, the annual Sheep Shearing Festival organized at the Animal Market, welcomes hundreds of local and international participants each year.

The smooth functioning of the animal Market has, however, been challenged throughout the past year of 2020. The recent war between Armenia and Azerbaijan caused uncertainty for thousands of residents of the Syunik region. The significant part of the vulnerable population of the region are the direct beneficiaries and consumers of the services offered by SAM. In this sense, the stability of the SAM plays a vital and strategic role in preserving the economic security in the region and preventing migration.

All the more, the completion of the “Livestock Development in Armenia” program towards the end of 2021 brought forward the question of the SAM ownership and sustainability. The SDC had to find a new arrangement in terms of the market’s ownership and its status.

Establishing the Syunik Animal Market, the SDC’s program implementing partner SDA has been the market’s driving force since day one. Therefore, there was a broad consensus that the SDA would be best positioned to ensure the best future for the market. Upon the SDC’s request, the SDA was prepared to come up with a detailed Business Plan, which envisages the set-up of new profit-based services to be provided by the SAM, while preserving its non-profit social components. These planned for-profit activities include high-breed cattle breeding, as well as slaughtering services, logistic support to regular sales of livestock, and certain outsource services.

On that basis, the SDC agreed to turn this development project into a social enterprise, while defining some business-related and legal parameters for this transformation. Facilitating this transformation with a contribution of additional resources amounting to CHF 250’000 of financial support, the SDC renewed and confirmed the core principles of the SAM’s functioning and develops a business perspective, against the economically challenging environment of the Syunik region. The new arrangement shall come into force as per 1st of January 2022.