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A Call to Action from Grand Commander Hunan Arshakian and Grand Chairwoman Gloria Korkoian

We are facing serious challenges as we, who are safe and secure in the United States, witness the blockade of Artsakh. In 1916, the Knights of Vartan was formed to assisted the survivors of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Now 106 years later, our brothers and sisters in Artsakh are in dire straits. Over 120,000 people are in this land blockade without access to the outside world.

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Ani Lodge Partners with Sahman USA for Economic Development Plan for Martuni Province in Artsakh

By GDR Jake Bournazian

Ani Lodge launched a new economic initiative in the Martuni province of the Republic of Artsakh for economic re-development in the remaining villages along the new border with the Republic of Azerbaijan. The villages in the Martuni province suffered severe economic and physical damage when Azerbaijan attacked and invaded Artsakh on September 27, 2020.  Almost every family lost fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters during that war.  Cluster bombs were dropped on the villages destroying homes, building, vehicles, roads, and supporting economic infrastructure. More people fled during evacuations after the November 10, 2020 cease fire agreement was signed. Prior to the war, the villages in Martuni province had abundant lands for livestock grazing and farming.  After the war there was a new line of contact bordering the town of Martuni and over 90% of the Armenian lands were taken by the Azerbaijan government.

The massive loss of 90% of the agricultural land from the October 2020 war requires a structural change in the economy for the border villages in the Martuni province of Artsakh. Now that the land size is drastically reduced, greenhouse farming is a necessary component for economic re-development in the border villages around the town of Martuni.  Unlike the Tavush province in the Republic of Armenia, small greenhouses are not common in Artsakh because historically there was an abundance of land.

The Knights of Vartan partnered with Sahman USA in May, 2021 to meet with villagers to explain and discuss new economic and business development opportunities in the province. A team of five business development analysts visited the new border villages of Martuni: Berdashen; Ashan; Norshen; Hatsi; Avdur; Myurashen; Karmir; Shuka; and Taghavard.  Meetings were also held with local government bodies, town mayors, and the Minister of State for the Republic of Artsakh to explain the project goals and help build community support.  The Sahman team held town meetings in the villages with community leaders and villagers to discuss specific vocations and economic trades such as small food processing, baking, tailoring and sewing, metal and wood working, greenhouse farming, and beehive farming   In the meetings the villagers discussed their work as farmers, tradesmen, and entrepreneurs and discussed innovative alternatives for sustainable agriculture and supporting economic development in the region.  

Sahman NGO members meeting in Martuni with applicants

The Knights of Vartan fund 80% of the cost for each new business in the Martuni province through the Sahman USA.  The applicant needs to provide 20% of its own capital for the business they desire to engage in. The idea and desire for the businesses must come from the applicant and each approved applicants needs to have a 20% investment and stake in the outcome of the success of the business. Many villagers completed applications and hand delivered their forms to their local town mayor’s office.   The applications were forwarded and reviewed by Sahman USA during July and August.  Six applicants were selected and approved in 2021 from the first round of applications received for business funding.  The Knights of Vartan are funding the start of six new businesses in the villages surrounding the town of Martuni starting in September, 2021.  Sahman USA team members assist in setting up the equipment for the business, provides up to five weeks of training in operating the business, and six months of business planning and supervision to each new business owner.

The economic re-development of the Martuni province is a long-term five-year effort that requires a structural shift in the current economic structure.  There current is no middle class in this region. In the past, 100% of the charity is used to purchase food, water, providing housing and medical care.   This project is unique for building the economic infrastructure in the communities in this border region to provide for their own food, housing and general welfare of the villagers.  Jacob Bournazian, Southeast Grand District representative for the Knights of Vartan, is leading the economic development project to provide innovative alternatives to the current economic conditions challenging the people living in this border region.  The Knights of Vartan look forward to bringing economic development to the Martuni border region and a new future of agricultural farming and economic livelihood for the generations to come.