ATP Is Planting Armenia's Future

By Gharibyan, Anahit | Women in Action, April 2009 | Go to article overview

ATP Is Planting Armenia's Future


Gharibyan, Anahit, Women in Action


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I am very proud to be a part of Armenia Tree Project (ATP) since the first day of its establishment. The founder of ATP is Carolyn Mugar, an Armenian-American philanthropist and a great woman with a commitment to Armenia.

Immediately after the devastating earthquake that shook Armenia in 1988, Mugar visited the country to assess the situation and participate in the process of recovery. She was struck by the tremendous needs that existed and wanted to do something to fill in those needs.

On a return trip to Armenia in the early 1990s, during the bitter winters of the energy blockade, she saw a country in the midst of wide-scale deforestation where people were cutting trees and park benches and burning them along with their own furniture for heating.

In urban centers such as Yerevan, residents who were desperate for fuel cut between two to three million trees. There was also a tremendous need for food and jobs. Mugar witnessed the human, economic and environmental devastation and sought for a way to change the situation.

In 1994, she founded ATP, patterned after the Jewish National Fund's tree planting programmes in Israel. Armenian-Americans supported the project by donating money to plant trees in honour of their loved ones.

At first, the Armenian people asked why we were giving them trees when they needed food and kerosene for heating. But we were undaunted, holding fast to the conviction that the darkest period in the new Republic's history was the perfect time to plan and plant for the future. Very soon people started coming to ATP and asking for trees.

In the course of 15 years, hundreds of thousands of trees were planted by ATP's Community Tree Planting Programme in communities throughout the country as part of our Sponsor-A-Tree programme which is funded by thousands of individual donors in the diasporas.

By planting trees, particularly fruit trees, ATP would provide food and jobs for the future of the beleaguered nation. The needs of recent Armenian refugees were considered when ATP established two state-of-the-art tree nurseries in 1996 and 1998 in the villages of Karin and Khachpar. The sites were chosen specifically to provide employment for Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan who, to this day, still support their families on the salaries received from ATP.

By 2001, ATP realised that planting 60,000 trees a year would not stem the serious tide of deforestation that continues to put Armenia in danger of desertification. Realising that poverty and deforestation are linked, ATP decided to create innovative programmes to plant considerably more trees and at the same time, address the widespread poverty and despair suffered by nearly half of Armenia's three million population. …

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