The recent frost that struck Armenia at the end of March has hit rural communities the hardest. Residents of one village say because of the frost they are barely able to make their loan payments, adding that the frost could even lead to increased emigration and crime.
Zhora Ordoyan has been tending to his 4000-square-meter apricot orchard with his family since February. First, he hoed then fertilized land, hoping to get an abundant harvest this year. But, after last month's sudden frost, he lost all hope. He goes to the orchard today too — but now to count his losses.
Damages in the village of Narek in Ararat Province add up to millions. Apricot, peach, and plum orchards were completely frostbitten, and grape harvest is also not expected. Residents are still waiting to see whether officials will come to their village and offer solutions.
"You're filming, that's good — if the government sees this, what will it do? A similar thing happened once before: we suffered from torrential rains, officials came, saw, went and left," says Zhora, straightening my bent back.
According to him, in the case of natural disasters, the government must make villagers a priority, but it doesn't. "They have to develop a mechanism for compensating our damages. We're not saying compensate by 100% or little by little, but enough so that I don't drown, so that I am not left without food. We fall behind, of course we won't starve, we'll plant something else, we'll have food at least, but this is not a solution to the problem," Zhora adds.
As in all villages in Armenia, rural households in Narek are maintained by bank loans. In recent years, 3 families in Narek had their homes seized because they couldn't make the loan payments on time.
Narek community leader Garush Hakobyan fears this year too some families might have their homes seized by the bank because after a frost hits, villagers are unable to repay their loans.
"We took loans from the bank — let's hope they don't come and choke us. I pay the interest, but there are people who pay the principal amount. These people don't have money for food — how are they supposed to pay off the loan?" says Zhora.
Member of the Narek village council Smbat Vardanyan, in turn, said that the frost will lead to an increase in emigration as well as an increase in crime. "If my child is hungry, it's obvious, right, that I'll go steal bread from Zhora's house so my child can eat. Furthermore, emigration will increase. Let me put it this way: I have a 25-year-old son. I wanted to marry him off this year, but after this situation, my son changed his mind and [now] wants to go work abroad, so we can overcome this crisis," he says.
According to Vardanyan, the only hope are the tomato crops in the fall, but there's an irrigation water problem, and villagers once again suffer losses at that time.
"I am asking the government please at least to take the people's suffering into consideration and freeze the bank payments. By conceding the land tax, they're not helping. True, it's better than nothing, but people are faced with the [basic] problem of maintaining an existence," he added.