YEREVAN—During the winter of 1992 while visiting Armenia, philanthropist Carolyn Mugar saw that thousands of trees were being cut for fuel, and families desperate to heat their homes were even burning their own furniture to stay warm. She committed to preventing further deforestation by founding Armenia Tree Project (ATP) in 1994. Nurseries were established in Karin and Khachpar villages, and the Community Tree Planting (CTP) program emerged to plant high quality fruit and decorative trees at urban and rural sites throughout the country.
This fall, ATP’s CTP program planted another 28,383 trees at 75 sites throughout Armenia and Artsakh. “ATP’s SEEDS (or Social, Economic, and Environmental Development for Sustainability) program is wrapping up its reforestation programs in northern Armenia, so the total number of trees planted by ATP will be even higher by end of year,” explained CTP Program Manager Arthur Harutyunyan.
“It’s remarkable to think that since 1994, ATP’s programs have reached 327 cities, towns, and villages out of a total of 915 in the entire country. In all of these places, we have greened 931 sites,” noted Harutyunyan. “Of course we hope that, through the ongoing commitment of our supporters in the diaspora and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that we will eventually reach every city and village.”
ATP uses a stringent site selection process in order to ensure the highest possible survival rate for these trees, which averages nearly 80 percent at CTP sites. “When a community requests trees, we visit the site and inspect the soil conditions and the availability of irrigation water,” explained Harutyunyan. “More importantly, we determine the level of interest and commitment of the local community to the trees. This provides an indicator for the care that these trees will receive.”
Several high-profile plantings were completed this fall in partnership with Synopsys Armenia, HSBC Bank, and the US Peace Corps. ATP has been planting trees with HSBC Bank Armenia since 2007, and the company recently sponsored the planting of another 124 trees in the Vahakni District of Yerevan.
As part of a Synopsys program to plant “one tree for each employee,” hundreds of employees joined their families to plant 1,000 evergreens at the State Engineering University and the Synopsys Armenia Education Department grounds in Yerevan.
“Since Synopsys first established a presence in Armenia in 2004, it has strived to be a good corporate citizen here. We have contributed to the progress of Armenian society by helping to improve the country’s educational system and by implementing other assistance programs. The planting of these trees is particularly significant, because their growth symbolizes our sustained investment in Armenia,” said Synopsys Armenia CEO Rich Goldman.
Another notable event was a series of plantings dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the U.S. Peace Corps in Armenia. ATP donated 40 trees for planting in the communities of Argel and Karashamb. “Twenty trees were provided for each location to mark the Peace Corps milestone,” Harutyunyan said. “The trees were planted at the school in Argel and at Karashamb Community Center by schoolchildren, Peace Corps volunteers, and the local community. Another volunteer requested trees for the school in Nshavan Village, so we provided another 40 ash trees to celebrate this special occasion.”
ATP’s mission is to assist the Armenian people in using trees to improve their standard of living and protect the environment, guided by the desire to promote self-sufficiency, aid those with the fewest resources first, and conserve the indigenous ecosystem. ATP’s three major programs are tree planting, environmental education, and sustainable development initiatives. For more information, visit the web site www.armeniatree.org.