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Outstanding Men

Taking advantage of the resettling in Karabagh, villages backed by the Monte Melkonian Association try new social experiences based on cooperation and solidarity

The resettling projects in Karabagh and in the liberated territories are little efficient if they take into account only the geographical, strategical and demographical facts. In such a step, the economic, social and patriotic dimensions are at least equally importent. How to self-defend against attacks if there is no cohesion to begin with among the individuals? Or moral and spiritual fortitude ? Due allowance being made, the development initiative by the Monte Melkonian Association of the Karegah village, in close cooperation with the village community and thanks to a generous donation by Mr. Edik Abrahamian from Iran, is inspired by these considerations. If this project succeeds, it may serve as a model for other places and suggest to Armenians of the diaspora who wish to help their compatriots in Armenia a new way for benevolent aid. A more efficient way, may be.

The Monte Melkonian Association

It's on the road Goris-Stepanakert, 4 Km to the North of Berdzor, ex-Lachine, that the Karegah village is situated. With its 250 inhabitants, it is one of the biggest rural communities created these last years out of the old boundaries of the soviet Mountainous Karabagh. The population, whose members exercise very diversified professions, is mostly formed by refugees who have been forced to desert villages and towns in Azerbaydjan. A few come from Karabagh and Armenia proper. All of them, however, sustain themselves with difficulty. Karegah is in a region which mostly lives on agriculture and more particularly on animal breeding. But with the back-yard gardens of the houses totalling 25 hectares and the arable land outside the village totalling 50 hectares, the total area of the agricultural lands remains low. Moreover, because of the absence of irrigation facilities, cultivation of agricultural lands is very difficult and fields are too often derelict. Only a small part of the backyard gardens are cultivated , but these do not cover the alimentation needs of the population. Drinking water exists only in half of the village, because the distribution network has been destroyed. Because of the lack of financial means, most of the families have only one or two cows. A few have even none. It is not surprising therefore that under such conditions 80% of the people of working age have to go to work in Berdzor, the administrative center of the Kashatagh region. And despite very low salaries, they are not ready to give up this meagre but almost unique source of revenues. Even if they have to walk 8-10 Km every day for the round-trip to Berdzor. To come out of this dead-end, some 20 households contemplated in spring 2002 the constitution of an agricultural collective and to cultivate the 50 hectares of arable land owned by the village. For this however, the necessary funds had to be raised. Missing these funds, the village people tried to resort to agricultural loans, but they have to pay for this a yearly interest of at least 18%. Too much for them. As the fields are not irrigated, drought and bad harvest can not be excluded and the loan is too risky. So the peasants gave up the idea. But there's a fortune in every misfortune. In April-May 2002 the village started to collaborate actively with the Monte Melkonian Association, an NGO based in Erivan. For what aim? To progressively solve the problems facing the village and insure its development. For this, a number of principles are agreed upon -see below. Thanks to a generous donation by Edik Abrahamian, an armenian from Iran wishing to help his compatriots and to honour his father's name, the project "Arshak Abrahamian for the development of Karegah village" is launched. In substance, it plans to insure the irrigation of the fields and the backyard gardens of the village, as well as the cultivation of the 50 hectares of arable lands, the creation of a youth club for cultural, educational and leisure activities, and finally, to provide the school with the necessary books which it lacked, again for financial reasons.

Operation: Succesful

Today, the balance-sheet is rather positive. The fields have been cultivated. Once it has the necessary financial means, the community must decide itself whether to divide the lands among the families or to keep them as a collective property. The Monte Melkonian Association has acquired two tractors that it has lended free of charges to the village both for the agricultural work in the fields and for the levelling of the roads and other works at the village. At the beginning of the current academic year the books have been delivered to the school. As a "compensation", the students are asked to do little chores for the community. The youth club will open soon. Its activities will be along three main directions: an educational one, which includes arts , computer science, civic education, etc, another one of community chores, oriented also towards environmental issues, and a third one oriented towards leisure activities such as social gatherings , field trips and national and popular festivals. To finance these activities, a little breeding farm is on the brink of being established. Its revenues will be devoted to this task. The only project subject to change was the implementation of an independent irrigation network. It has been merged to another project, more global in scope, planned by the Kachatagh administration to provide drinking water to the neighbouring town of Berdzor. As a result of the merger, Karegah's both irrigation and drinking water problems should be solved. The Monte Melkonian Association lended 3 million Drams to the local public sector constructions company for the initiation of the project. The Finance Ministry will provide the remaining funds to conclude the project hopefully by March 2003.
The Monte Melkonian Association has up to now invested some 23000 Dollars in the development project of Karegah. This amount will necessarily increase in the coming months. But this amount is not a grant; most of it is advanced in the form of loans without interest, and if efforts on behalf of all sides are paying, the loans will be returned to the Association which will invest them then in the same or another locality, according to the same principles. In the meantime, Karegah will have taken its first big step towards development, in a climate of cooperation and solidarity.

After an exchange of opinions, the people of Karegah and the Monte Melkonian Association have reached agreement on a number of principles and projects to implement together :

1-At the service of the entire community :

The authorities of the village should always seek the homogenous development of the community, without acute polarizations of the society. They must bring about an active participation of the members of the community for the elaboration and the realization of the common objectives. The villagers should be included as much as possible in the technical realization of these projects. A part of their contribution will be benevolent. This is their contribution to the development of their own community.

2-Finance their own projects:

The funds devoted by the Monte Melkonian Association for the economic activities -agriculture, animal breeding- are in the form of loans without interests which must be refunded within a reasonable period of time agreed upon by all the sides. The funds devoted for the infrastructure of the village -irrigation, etc- must be at least partially refunded because the infrastructure increases productivity. The non-lucrative projects such as the creation of the youth club are granted without counterpart. But, to ensure the continuous activity of the club, the Monte Melkonian Association creates a small enterprise the profits of which will be channelled to this aim.

3-Suppress the mentality of the needy:

The aim of the total and partial refunding of the advanced amounts is to change the mentalities of the people. The citizen must not expect to always receive aid, but on the contrary, must take his destiny and the destiny of his community into his own hands.

And now, Igevanadun

Parallel to the Karegah project, and thanks once more, to a donation by Mr. Edik Abrahamian, the Monte Melkonian Association is implementing in colaboration with other NGOs a re-settlement project in the completely devastated village of Igevanadun, at the south of the Hadrout region of Karabagh. This project includes the building or rebuilding of houses undertaken by the "Doon" Association of Marseille. The Monte Melkonian Association deals more particularly with the social and economic development of the village. The realization of the whole project is managed by the NGO Avetyats Yerkir.

French article (image, 270Kb)

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