Vardanashen, a village in the southern Armenian province of Armavir, is a mere 3.5 kilometres from the border with Turkey.
1,360 residents are officially registered in Vardanashen, but many no longer live there.
Vardanashen Deputy Mayor Edik Zakaryan told Hetq that certain improvements have been made in the village in the past few years. Natural gas is now supplied and village roads are to be repaired.
But many problems remain, especially water for drinking. Presently, residents draw their potable water from artesian wells but Zakaryan says that the numerous fish farms in the area are using up this underground resource at an alarming rate.
Another issue deals with the birth rate. “Couples have one son and one daughter and that’s it. Who can care for more kids given today’s economic conditions?” asks Zakaryan.
|Hakob Hovasapyan||Edik Zakaryan|
The deputy mayor sees greater agricultural exports as the only practical resolution to the problems facing the village.
Zakaryan recently travelled to Moscow, where he visited the Globus Supermarket. He was surprised to see row upon row of Bulgarian vegetables and asks why Armenian products aren’t being marketed overseas.
“We don’t really have a Ministry of Agriculture here in Armenia. They just get government money but do little with it,” complains Zakaryan.
The decreasing population also concerns school Principal Hakob Hovasapyan. He says that ten years ago,enrollment stood at 220 pupils and has dropped to 160 today.
“Migration is the main reason for the drop. Mostly Yezidi families leave the village. This year alone three families have picked up and gone,” notes Hovasapyan, adding that 90% of those who have left had bank loans to pay off. Finding work is the main reason people leave Vardanashen.
Principal Hovasapyan says it’s high time that the government turns it focus away from the urban areas and towards Armenia rural communities.
“Most people here are living in the most basic of conditions. Even having a shower or an indoor toilet is a dream,” he said.