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FEATURE STORY May 12, 2021

Armenian Grasslands – How Sustainable Livestock Practices Can Boost Incomes While Protecting the Environment


World Bank Armenia

Communities across Armenia are demonstrating that adopting sustainable livestock practices can increase household incomes while also protecting the environment. Although the country’s contribution to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is relatively low, Armenia has committed to achieving neutral GHG emissions by 2050, pointing to the important role agriculture and grassland management play in reaching this ambitious goal.

Armenia’s alpine grasslands cover roughly 60 percent of the country’s total land area and are essential for its environmental and economic wellbeing. Grasslands can contribute to mitigating global warming, since they act as a carbon sink that capture CO2 from the atmosphere. Moreover, these grasslands serve as pasturage for the nation’s livestock - producing fodder for a vital sector of Armenia’s agricultural output.

Armenia recognizes the importance of protecting its pastureland. In its 6th National Report to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity - and in line with its National Target 4 (better protection of biodiversity habitats by minimizing their degradation) - Armenia highlighted the need to introduce sustainable land management approaches, given that pastureland degradation poses a significant threat to its natural ecosystems and livestock production.

In this landlocked country with a population of 3 million, where the agriculture sector accounts for 12 percent of GDP, threats to livestock and pastureland can significantly impact livelihoods. While productivity has grown substantially over the past decade, the large population of smallholders remains extremely vulnerable, with 26.4 percent still living in poverty.

Yields are far below their potential, and livestock productivity is hindered by the poor management and unsustainable use of pasture resources. The most common problems include severe overgrazing and the degeneration of the most accessible pasture areas, under-used remote pasture lands, the poor quality and shortage of winter feedstuff, issues related to animal health, and poor genetic resources.

These barriers could be overcome - and the sector’s full potential realized - by enabling sustainable management plans, improving market access, supporting the commercialization process, and enhancing employment opportunities in rural areas.

And this does not have to come at the expense of protecting the natural environment. The World Bank–financed Second Community Agricultural Resources Management and Competitiveness project (CARMAC 2)  aims to improve the productivity and sustainability of pasture and livestock systems in targeted communities and to increase production in selected livestock and profitable agri-food value chains, while also strengthening public sector institutions.


World Bank Armenia

Community/Pasture Livestock Management System

Building on its predecessor project and incorporating an inclusive participatory process, CARMAC 2 is providing relevant training to 109 communities in managing 207,000 hectares of community pasture areas (about 19 percent of the country’s total pastureland) and in undertaking comprehensive pasture and fodder assessments. These communities consist of some 65,000 households, or roughly 285,000 people, with women and rural youth involved in training programs.

Significant improvements have been seen in indicators of standing stock, the productivity of vegetative cover, and household income. Stock watering points were constructed in pastures, the productivity of pasture and livestock systems improved, and production volumes in selected high-value agri-food value chains increased. At the same time, there have been environmental improvements to degraded lands.

“The number of cattle has increased by 70 percent. Milk and meat productivity has increased too. Animals are being grazed in shifts, which has had a noticeable effect on the struggle against land degradation,” says 29-year-old Aram Karapetyan, president of Aygut community, Gegharkunik marz.

Value Chain Development

CARMAC 2 also helps local agricultural producers and food processors to meet domestic demand and to access international opportunities. The latter is done through the development of selected food value chains where Armenia has a competitive advantage, such as milk, honey, and fruits and vegetables. This involves strengthening links between producers and processors, promoting food safety, and supporting processing and marketing strategies.

“Armenia is prioritizing the further development of rural enterprises. This project is essential to strengthening the links between agricultural producers and the food processing industry, to contribute to promoting food safety, and to support the processing and marketing of the produced products,” says Arman Khojoyan, Deputy Minister of Economy of Armenia.

Navur community, Tavush marz, before and after intervention.


Strengthening Public Sector Institutions

The project increases the capacity of public sector institutions to facilitate business development and enable market access in select value chains, including linking livestock production of milk and cheese, as well as other produce such as fruits, vegetables, poultry, and herbs.

As outlined in Armenia’s Strategy for Sustainable Agricultural Development, CARMAC 2 supports the country’s Vision 2029 in protecting and taking advantage of the full potential of its two core assets – land and youth. This means advancing the agriculture sector from traditional small-scale production to a market-driven and technology-enabled system, while ensuring youth have access to opportunities and engaging, empowering, and building a stable supply of talent for the sector. As countries around the world contend with the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank is helping governments, including Armenia’s, implement strategies to protect lives and livelihoods, while also protecting and revitalizing natural assets.

Policies that combine socioeconomic growth and environmental protection are needed now more than ever. By sustainably managing its grasslands and implementing environmentally sound livestock practices, Armenia is working towards a greener and more resilient recovery.