the village of Mets Parni in the Lori region,
politics takes a back seat to the common struggle
of daily living.
Here, where about 2,500 residents are divided
into the "needy" and the "very
needy" villagers don't look for change as
much as for survival.
"Who can do something?" say villagers
shrugging their shoulders.
Nature offers sustenance. But nature is also
fickle and as apt to provide drought as rain.
The 1988 earthquake destroyed more than 500 houses
in Mets Parni and only a few have been rebuilt.
"After our house had been destroyed we have
been living in a so-called house, which is a temporary
hostel, an iron domik (small house) that was intended
only for living there for 3-4 years," says
villager Hrach Gabrielyan. "These days that
hostel has eroded and ruined so much that it has
constantly been falling piece by piece on our
Villagers have heard campaign promises of every
Presidential candidate through four elections
and have seen the promises vanish once the votes
were in. Nor can nature be counted on, though
it is their only hope.
"From the agricultural points of view our
village is located almost in one of the terrible
climate zones," says head of the village
Hrayr Yaghubyan. "At least each three years
out of five are completely unfavorable here for
agriculture and during other years we hardly make
ends meet. There is either drought or extremely
wet weather here and as a result villagers remain
empty-handed and the village suffers."
But the questions of despair may be about to
find answers in a new project being introduced
in Mets Parni.
Last month the United Nations World Food Programme
began "Food for Learning", a program
with 78 Mets Parni villagers in which WFP provides
lessons in farming. The men and women in the program
also have a chance to get cooking materials and
"This project helps villagers very much,"
the village head says. "For learning, villagers
get flour, oil and other foodstuff, which in some
measure makes the terrible situation in which
villagers found themselves, easier."
And, the project renews itself, as Yaghubyan
will not mill and make flour of the small amount
of wheat they raised but will keep it as seeds
for raising another crop. Of course the project
is prepared for needy people, however here, everybody
is in the same state and such courses should even
have involved more people."
Villagers who have participated since the first
lessons (taught in the village school) say they
have found answers for numerous questions and
are hopeful they will be better prepared to meet
the challenges of nature in their region.
"Villagers learn subtleties, which they
couldn't know before," says agriculturist
Slavik Minasyan, who is training others in accordance
with the teaching for food principle. He goes
from one village to another and teaches villagers
secrets of agriculture. "I think that in
some measure financial conditions will improve
thanks to specialized knowledge and slowly villagers
will become professional."
As head of the village assures, villagers have
been living for many years thanks to agriculture,
cattle-breeding and mainly to itinerant work.
However, roads are closed for many of them. And
the number of people involved in itinerant work
decreased as many villagers don't have the possibility
to leave the village
"Last year's surprise (drought) left us
only empty pockets, debts and led us to the conditions
that we hadn't even managed to send our children
to school," says Hrach Gabrielyan.
Mkrtchyan, who for 20 years worked in (Soviet)
collective farms, says that once on their own,
many farmers did not know how to get the best
from their land, especially in conditions such
as last year's drought. He also says that many
villagers cannot afford top-quality seeds.
"And as a result all efforts of villagers
don't even provide a small income," says
Vladimir Gharajyan, who is a chief observer of
Vanadzor branch office of the WFP project. "That's
why WFP food for knowledge project had been launched
in this village."
The teacher Minasyan says the WFP is giving villagers
answers to many questions but: "The results
of those lessons will be obvious in autumn, when
the season for harvesting starts."