What is the condition of the land in Armenia, what kind of policy does the government run for land resources, whether we will have food safety problem because of climate change and what we should do to face theclimate change? All these questions were discussed at “The Safety of Land resources and Food inLight of Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Emissions” round table at “EcoLur” Press Club. The round table participants were as follows: Garnik Petrosyan, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Lusine Davtyan, Deputy Head at State Service for Food Safety, Asya Muradyan, Head of Air Protection Policy Division Ministry of Nature Protection of the Republic of Armenia, Aram Gabrielyan, National Focal Point of the UN Convention on Climate Change, Ashot Vardevanyan, National Focal Point of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Hunan Ghazaryan, Director of Scientific Center of Soil Science, Agrochemistry and Melioration, Diana Harutyunyan, UNDP Climate Change Project Coordinator, Georgi Arzumanyan, UNDP Programme Policy Adviser, Anastas Aghazaryan, UNDP Climate Change Program Expert, Armen Danielyan, IFAD/GEF National Coordinator of “Sustainable land management to increase productivity”, Amalya Hambardzumyan, Chairman of “Khazer” NGO, Nune Sarukhanyan, Chairman of “Green Lane” NGO and EcoLur working team.
"In the Republic in the period 2006-2010 there is a negative tendency of reducing sowing areas of agricultural crops, particularly in 2010 when the sowing areas decreased by 16 thousand hectares compared with 2009. Since 2011 the situation has essentially changed and in 2014 the sowing areas exceeded the level in 2010 by 50 thousand hectares and made up 332.8 thousand hectares. By 2014's data the level of targeted use of arable lands was 74.3 percent compared with 63.2 percent in 2010. According to operative data the tendency of increasing sowing areas continued in 2015, too. The sowing areas increased by more than 17 thousand hectares. In spite of positive shifts there is still the problem of targeted use of arable lands in the Republic and the current state policy is aimed at gradual solution of that problem. Taking into account the emergency of the problem within several years by special professional groups we could study and detect the reasons why the lands weren't used which served as basis for state projects in that field. After land privatization in our country many negative phenomena were recorded connected with dividing lands into smaller fields which resulted in decreasing the efficiency of land use. For a long period of time the whole drainage network didn't operate properly and consequently in certain sections there was soil salinisation and maximum hydration. As a result of wrong land division particularly in case of mountain relief erosion phenomena were observed in a number of places which also result in degradation of lands. A significant part of arable lands wasn't used in agriculture. Only in 2005-2008 the lands which were not used increased by another 50 thousand hectares", RA Deputy Minister of Agriculture Garnik Petrosyan presented the problems of agricultural lands.
He stated that since 2011 due to the activities initiated by the RA Government such as breeding and supplying seeds, providing pesticides and diesel fuel at low prices, subsidizing loan interest rates and realizing other projects, they managed to decrease the not used arable lands from 37 percent to 26 percent. "Today gross rural product constitutes about 20-21 % of GDP. This is a rather serious progress. Over the last 4 years agricultural lands were included in agricultural turnover by about 50 thousand hectares. It is a good fact which in terms of food safety is a serious progress. And it's no secret that our country is not only self-sufficient with a number of crop products but also we have a great surplus. It's a long time we have supplied potatoes for domestic consumption demand and a large quantity of potatoes can be exported. It's a long time that our local resources of fruits and vegetables are more than 100% and we have large quantities to export.
It doesn’t still satisfy us. We don’t completely use our potential yet. We need serious, large investments, financial flows, attracting loan resources, we have a problem of increasing the availability of loans because the loans burst to peasants by the banks aren’t so available and effective to do any activity. That’s why it’s necessary to mention the implementation of the project of subsidizing the interest rates of agricultural loans as a result of which 6 % is subsidized by the state and consequently the loan is burst to the peasant by 8%.
According to the situation in 2010 only 40 percent of the whole pasture areas was used and mainly in the areas neighbouring the communities. It results in overuse of the pastures and land erosion.
Assessing the following situation “Management and Competitiveness of the Agricultural Resources of the Communities” program supported by the World Bank has launched since 2011 which involves the rural communities of Aragatsotn, Lori, Shirak, Tavush, Gegharkunik and Syunik regions. The program aims at supporting mountainous and frontier communities having cattle breeding orientation by means of providing the passability of far pastures, recovering degradated pastures and other activities contributing to cattle breeding.
Today we can already say that all the regions are included in the project and cooperatives of pasture users are established. More than 91 cooperatives have already been registered.
Since the second quarter of 2015 the second “Management and Competitiveness of the Agricultural Resources of the Communities” program has launched. Vayots dzor and Tavush regions were also added to the 6 regions included in the previous program. In about 100 communities programs targeted at developing cattle breeding will be implemented”, stated Garnik Petrosyan.
The discussion participants raised a question about changing the purpose of land use stating that the category of many agricultural lands changes into a category of mining lands which isn’t welcomed. In response to this Garnik Petrosyan said, “A number of areas are necessary to change the purpose of use and change into mining lands. It’s a natural phenomenon: there is a state, there is an economy which must develop. Yes, you are right that in the future those lands must return to their previous category and be used for purpose. Of course, it’s not always possible to restore the areas and bring to the same condition and they are also long lasting problems. But in certain fields that action is in process. For example, in the field of forests.
We have to be very careful while dealing with lands as I am a member of interagency commission myself and we refer to the issue very strictly. We allow to change the category of arable lands in case of emergency. They are emergent and rare cases, the same refers to pastures, moreover to perennial saplings. What refers to arable lands especially in highlands and not available places, we agree more easily to use those lands for mining.
If you say or think that the category of agricultural lands must never change I don’t share that opinion, especially in frontier areas where the area is used for some purpose, working places are established, and there is a result.
The “EcoLur” Informational NGO is organizing series of events aimed at public involvement and awareness raising targeted to the future climate change policy directions and development of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) of the Republic of Armenia under UN Climate Change Framework Convention (UNFCCC).
The material is prepared by 'EcoLur' Informational NGO under UNDP Climate Change Program, within the framework of ARM-002/2015 Contract.The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the United Nations, including UNDP, or the UN Member States.
11:16 July 18, 2015