Feasible Eco-Alternative to Mining in Armenia
Interview with Lia Soorenian, a Student from New York Implementing an Eco-project in Armenia
by: Harout Malkhasyan
Q: Please introduce yourself a little bit. Where do you study? What are your hobbies and interests?
A: I am Lia Soorenian, I attend Bard College in upstate New York and I'm studying Environmental and Urban Studies with a focus on Urban Planning.
Q: Give us a little more information about the eco-project you will be implementing in Armenia this year. Who organized it? Who financed it? When and where it will take place? Under what conditions did you receive this award? How do you imagine actualizing this project: under what kind of a timeline?
A: This project is called “Sustainable Apiculture: Community Empowerment through Local Economies” and it is organized by Pan-Armenian Environmental Front (PAEF), Armenian Renaissance, Los Angeles (ARLA) Chapter, and myself. In January 2014, I applied to the Davis Project for Peace award. Having started as a philanthropic foundation, this initiative invites American undergraduate students to design a project and implement it over the course of a summer. Each project is granted $10,000 and is chosen based on its feasibility and its ability to present a solution towards some kind of a peace conflict. Our project will be held in the village of Litchk, Syunik region, Armenia from May through August 2014 and will present a beekeeping business model for five to ten families.
Q: Why beekeeping? Is this an alternative to mining?
A: Beekeeping can be a simple and sustainable form of income for each household in Litchk. Because the residents come from a low-income, rural community, they are motivated to work for an industry that will provide them with a stable income. Currently, workers grab the opportunity to work for the mining industry because they do not have any other alternative. To encourage farmers to work in the mining industry, the government creates barriers for farmers, such as importing crops from foreign countries and preventing them from selling their own crops. This limits the farmers’ options and pushes them into the mining industry. Not only do the residents receive low salaries and the environmental is heavily polluted, but they are also constantly exposed to toxic chemicals. However, the beekeeping business in Litchk will give residents the opportunity to a more secure and long-term income. Honey happens to be a sustainable, raw material that can be sold in major cities in Armenia. With the help of different facilitators and participants, the community will have a stronger agency towards the mining industry and will abandon their employment at the mines once beekeeping proves to be more profitable and beneficial.
Q: What kind of goals do you have in mind?
A: My goal is to introduce a safer, more sustainable, environmentally-conscious, and economically-advantageous alternative to mining in the village of Litchk. I believe that producing honey as a primary source of income will provide households with the opportunity for a healthy, safe life and therefore a higher standard of living. Through this project, families will be able to live a more secure life not only today, but also for the upcoming inter-generational future.
Q: For your future plans, do you plan on developing this project on a larger scale and in other regions?
A: Yes, most definitely. We will be campaigning our project internationally and hope to reach a wider audience who can help and support us. If this project proves to be successful in Litchk, perhaps we can extend the beekeeping opportunity to other villages as well. Also, we hope to help the villagers sell their honey on a global scale and cater to as many customers as needed. So yes, with time, this project will grow and affect more and more communities.
Read about the the Pan-Armenian Environmental Front here. Follow them on Facebook for updates on this and other projects.