By Ani Paitjan
A new Eco Center will be opening in Berd town in July 2019. Anahit Badalian, the Executive Director of the Berd Women’s Resource Center, introduced the new project at Impact Hub Yerevan.
“In 2016, we decided to create jobs for women living in Berd so that they are able to develop new skills, use their talent in crochet, handmade products, eco farming and eco gardening,” said Badalian.
The idea for the Eco Center took three years to take shape.
Berd town, located on the border with Azerbaijan, is at the heart of a conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Attacks from both sides have become part of everyday life for the citizens. As a consequence, many inhabitants have left the town to find jobs outside the country. Around 8,000 inhabitants are registered in the town, of which 6,000 are women and children. According to Badalian, 56 percent of those women are unemployed.
The women took part in various trainings to learn how to crochet, how to prepare organic “murraba” (jam) and how to produce herbal teas.
“We have to benefit from what we have in the village – nature,” Badalian said. “We produce organic berries, some of which are in the red book of endangered species. We give them a revival. We also focus on handmade products because our women have the potential to produce beautiful things with their hands.”
After years of working in an old Soviet building, Anahit finally opened the doors to the eco-center, created with the help of the Homeland Development Initiative Foundation (HDIF). HDIF helped her find funds through a crowdfunding campaigns and donors.
According to Beth Rustigian Broussalian, coordinator at HDIF, their is a great demand for organic food and handmade products.
“In the United States, in Europe, people want to consume those kind of products because of the quality job that is done here in Armenia. We do believe that there is a real potential that can be put on the international scene,” said Broussalian.
The Eco Center has five bedrooms and is built to host tourists. Under improved conditions, fifty women from Berd will continue making handmade crafts, farming and producing organic foods in the center.