Friday, 21 September

Arevik Village: Farmers Can’t Sell Crops; Use It to Feed Livestock

Rotting cucumbers line the roadsides leading to the fields in Arevik, a village of some 1,700 in Armenia’s Armavir Province.

Village residents are dumping the cucumbers there for their livestock to eat when taken out to graze.

Villagers say they can’t sell all the cucumbers they grow at the market for a reasonable price, and the excess is used for animal feed.

Visiting the village, I encounter several older men seated outside the cultural center, playing cards and backgammon. Seeing a stranger, they stop the game. Their displeasure with the government begins. The men say officials never visit the village to hear their opinions on a broad range of topics. A few candidates running in the April parliamentary election made a campaign stop in the village and that was it. Nothing before or since.

They say they have to take their produce to the only market in the area located in the Ararat village of Hovtashat. It’s where farmers from the provinces of Ararat and Armavir come to sell their goods. The market, they say, has more sellers than buyers, forcing down prices to ridiculous levels. Arevik residents say they want more smaller markets rather than a few large ones.

Levon Joumshoudyan, secretary at the Arevik municipality, says it makes no sense to sell a kilogram of cucumbers for twenty drams, the going price today, and farmers are simply dumping the veggies.

Mkrtich Margaryan (photo below) says the government is to blame, pointing out that 70% of current MPs can’t even speak proper Armenian. The man says even listening to the MPs depresses him, and thus he can’t picture them understanding the issues faced by rural residents.

Margaryan says he was angered to hear that the government had increased the salaries of MPs and offered them special pension privileges, while rural residents, who are the backbone of Armenia, working the land from dawn till dusk, receive a pittance of a pension, an amount not even enough to pay utility bills. He didn’t want to talk about the high credit interest rates villagers in need must accept. Evidently, it was a sensitive topic.

Others gathered around Margaryan to express their concerns, saying that the government has turned a blind eye to the village. Most Arevik households still aren’t hooked up to the natural gas system. They can’t afford to run a pipe from their homes to the street main.

Residents recount the ‘gas fraud’ perpetrated by former Armavir Provincial Governor Albert Heroyan, who turned on the gas spigot in the village and boasted that he had brought the blue fuel to Arevik. In reality, the gas he lit came from a concealed tank of gas. That scam still leaves a bad taste in the mouths of village residents.  

Arevik has no kindergarten. The building is in ruins. Children attend kindergartens in neighboring villages or in the town of Armavir.

Joumshoudyan says the government has promised to allocate 50 million AMD to construct a new kindergarten as part of it special needs program. He couldn’t say when work would begin.

Credit debt remains the one problem faced by almost all in the village. Joumshoudyan says that years ago a bad hailstorm damaged the fields and crops. Villagers were forced to take out loans that have been recalculated several times.

“I can state that in our village 98%, if not 100%, have credit debt to pay,” Jmshoudyan said.

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