Nine months after being forcibly displaced, Artsakhtsis are working towards a sustainable future

Written by Béatrice Denise Chahine

28 June 2024

For more than 5 years before the Artsakh Social Developments and Projects Fund (ASDPF) was created, its founders worked in Artsakh with families to create food secure communities. In 2022, they founded the ASDPF, a natural next step in the development of their work with these communities. The ASDPF’s projects center around building greenhouses and teaching communities different tools to successfully grow the necessary fruits and vegetables for their food sources. Once up and running, these greenhouses and other projects gave local communities a source of income in Artsakh.1

Photo from Yerazad Coalition’s GoFundMe for the ASDPF

Now, forcibly displaced from Artsakh since the ethnic cleansing of Artsakh in September 2023, the ASDPF wants to continue its work with these communities in Armenia. Entire families and communities need to rebuild their lives in Armenia and regain their sense of security. The ASDPF hopes to contribute to reaching that goal. In order to do this, they are collaborating with organizations in the diaspora such as Yerazad Coalition, a platform dedicated to Armenian liberation and building transnational solidarity. Arya Jemal, a community member of Yerazad has set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds for ASDPF’s next project. 

Arya is currently doing a Fulbright in Armenia, researching climate resiliency in agriculture and agronomy, specifically concentrating on methods farmers use in the fields and orchards. Through her mother, who visited her last year, she was introduced to various members of the ASDPF. Having already worked with sustainability projects, she took an interest in the ASDPF’s work. After talking with other community members of Yerazad, she set up the GoFundMe page to actively help the community. Though they are currently raising funds for the ASDPF, Yerazad’s goal is to become involved on a more active level within the Armenian communities. Yerazad has begun presentation work to get other diaspora organizations on board.2

For this project, the ASDPF is building greenhouses, in which families will plant various fruit and vegetable seedlings. In addition, they want to set up beekeeping missions to help both the families working with them and the environment as a whole. Ultimately,  the funds raised will go towards acquiring bees, beekeeping supplies, and all materials necessary for building the greenhouses including all the LED lighting systems and the temperature and pH monitoring equipment.3

A large greenhouse measuring 20 square meters can support a family of ten.4 As with its previous campaigns and projects, the ASDPF keeps a timeline for each step of the implementation. Arya gave the following estimates in the presentation document destined for diaspora organizations. One month is dedicated to conducting assessments. The next is spent selecting the beneficiaries. So far, the ASDPF has begun working with two beneficiaries, both forcibly displaced families from Artsakh. 

One family from Artsakh is in Sari Tagh, in the Erebuni district.5 They have some land, on which they are already tending a small garden. In the village of Aruj, in the province of Aragatsotn, two families from Artsakh are planning to work together.6 In each family, there are veterans of both wars for Artsakh, who are facing significant challenges after fighting for their country. In the first family, Andranik is disabled from his time fighting during the 1990s war.7 They already began to grow greens and to take care of animals, such as hens. In addition, the son is taking classes to learn about growing flowers.8 In the second family, the father was killed during that same war and the son fought during the 2020 war.9 They were already growing greens and taking care of animals when they were still in Artsakh. In addition, in Aruj, the families have old beehives, which are ready to work again. They also began growing greens.10

Photo from Yerazad Coalition’s GoFundMe for the ASDPF

In the next couple of months after the beneficiaries were selected, the construction of the greenhouses began. The preliminary work with the ASDPF’s current beneficiaries began in March and April.11 The ASDPF and its partners surveyed the land each beneficiary family has, took measurements, and met with distributors providing the greenhouses.12 During that same period, the farmers’ trainings began too. Մեղվաբուծության դարբնոց – Beekeeping Forge, an Armenian organization, will be offering free and discounted beekeeping trainings and beekeeping materials.13 As of June, Yerazad has raised enough funds through the GoFundMe page to build two greenhouses. This allows the ASDPF to begin preparing for the construction work. However, it is not enough. More money and more support are necessary to make this project a success and to allow the ASDPF to grow and expand their projects in the future. For example, Arya also mentioned that the organization also has an idea of creating partnerships with restaurants and trade schools, although it is not a concrete plan at this stage. 

Photo from Yerazad Coalition’s GoFundMe for the ASDPF

Prior to being forcibly displaced in September 2023, the ASDPF had established projects with communities in Artsakh, which proved indispensable for survival. In Askeran, for example, the community outreach around the greenhouses was critical during the blockade forced upon Artsakh by Azerbaijan. The community there had essential food at the time from the greenhouses. Without that support and food, entire communities would have starved.14

The ASDPF was officially registered in Artsakh and, as such, is currently looking for solutions to navigate the Armenian bureaucracy.  Amidst this difficult task, the ASDPF is already working throughout Armenia. In addition to the greenhouse initiatives and other projects to build food secure communities, the ASDPF endeavors to create opportunities for local economic development. The ASDPF also helps community members set up micro-businesses by funding necessary equipment and training for each person desiring to create a certain business within the community. For example, they raised funds to buy equipment and provided training to someone, who wanted to open up a hair salon and to another person, who wanted a sewing machine to support their family and community. 

Arya explained that there is a need for short term and long term sustainable solutions, not only to provide economically for local communities but also to provide while keeping in mind the environment, as many people have close relationships to the land, with whom they work. Here, everyone interested in working with the ASDPF want to participate in the most active ways possible as it offers important opportunities for them to provide for their communities and to work with the land again. They want to connect with each other and engage together to rebuild what became lost when they were forcibly displaced from their homelands in Artsakh in September 2023. 

They want to keep their important connections with the land itself. Engaging with the land brings people closer to it and establishes a relationship, which is the case for the forcibly displaced from Artsakh and the ASDPF. This same connection to the land is central to safeguarding the environment. In recent years and for a few decades, many communities worldwide, including in Armenia, have been working towards this. Finding sustainable solutions, whether short term or long term, is important for the survival of communities. While recycling and having clean water, clean air and clean energy are important, so are equal opportunities for all, food security for all, access to education for all, and housing for all.15

In Armenia, there is no lack of organisations focused on providing sustainable opportunities. In fact, there are so many that sometimes it can be difficult to collaborate. Despite this, the organisations manage to work together on different initiatives across various issues, including those pertaining to the environment or food security. The Acopian Center for the Environment, for example, has, in the past, partnered with different entities to work on community gardens and to promote environmental education in schools and communities.16 Civil society organisations also have partnered with the EU’s and the UN’s respective agencies.17 Among the projects are several working around recycling. 

Speaking about sustainability and the ASDPF’s work, Arya emphasized that she wants this project to reach non-Armenian economic development organisations and environmental organisations and communities, in addition to the Armenian diaspora. Too many times, she noted, the Caucasus is forgotten by the international community. People ignore Armenia and Artsakh while obviously knowing about the petrol in Azerbaijan, who will host the next COP29 conference later this year, despite targeting Artsakh’s forests with white phosphorus and perpetrating egregious environmental destruction there less than a year ago. The COP29 event in Azerbaidjan is decried by many working in agronomics, ergonomics, environmental practices, environmental defence, and sustainability. These same professionals are a potential target audience for this fundraiser and this project. The practices, to which the ASDPF is committed, are exactly the sustainable practices other communities worldwide are also implementing. 

Several of these practices include sustainable farming practices, amongst them: 1. mulching, which is carried out by covering the ground around plants with straw, wood chips, or grass clippings to improve nutrient retention in soils and encourages soil microorganisms, which help aerate the soil structure; 2. urban agriculture, which transforms urban spaces into food and flower gardens; 3. food forests, in which nut and fruit trees, fruit shrubs, overground and root vegetables, perennial herbs and flowers, mushrooms, and climbing plants coexist; 4. growing older plant varieties, which help to preserve the biodiversity of seeds; and 5. natural pest control and management. We have already lost 90% of this biodiversity in the past century, therefore reducing the genetic variety in food crop species and the opportunities to adapt to climate change or diseases.18

Photo from Yerazad Coalition’s GoFundMe for the ASDPF

Beekeeping is also essential within these practices. Bees are responsible for accidental pollination, which allows plants to reproduce and grow, as they do their rounds, looking for nectar. The process allows the ecosystem to remain stabilized.19 Therefore, ASDPF’s mission to provide beekeeping outposts along with the greenhouses is also important in reaching their larger sustainability goals.

This specific project enters into the long tradition the ASDPF has with Artsakhsi communities. It also enters into a long standing relationship these communities have with the land. Yerazad’s participation here begins with the GoFundMe campaign and they are working towards taking on a more active role on the ground. The ASDPF, for its part, wants to continue its community and economic development outreach work in Armenia, at the service of all who aspire to do something in order to support their communities. They and the Artsakhsi communities they support are all still looking to fully integrate into the Armenian communities within Armenia’s borders. As we enter the summer season, the fundraiser and the Artsakhsi communities are and will continue to be in the present day. 
Yerazad Coalition and the ASDPF need your help here: the GoFundMe campaign is still live and every little bit helps. As stated above, more money and more support are necessary to continue this project and to allow for the ASDPF’s growth. Yerazad is able to transfer all the funds raised so far to the ASDPF.  Both are also looking to spread the word in order to be connected with support from the worldwide diaspora and support from expert sectors such as the environmental, sustainability, and economic development sectors.

1Information shared as part of the introduction to the GoFundMe campaign page set up to raise funds for the ASDPF’s present community project in service of the forcibly displaced Artsakhsi families, now in Armenia. Jemal, Arya; “ Greenhouses & Beekeeping for Artsakhsis ”; GoFundMe website; page created on 3 November 2023; retrieved online. URL:
2Arya Jemal put together a short document presenting the ASDPF’s aims and current project in order to reach out to other organizations. It details estimates for different equipment and for costs. Jemal, Arya; “ Greenhouses + Beekeeping for Artsakhsis ”; 12p. Document available in PDF format.
3Jemal, Arya; “Greenhouses & Beekeeping for Artsakhsis ”; GoFundMe website; page created on 3 November 2023; retrieved online. URL:
4Jemal, Arya; “Greenhouses + Beekeeping for Artsakhsis ”; page 8; 12p. Document available in PDF format. 
5Information retrieved from 24 hour long story highlights shared by Yerazad Coalition on their Instagram social media account. 
11Estimates from Jemal, Arya; “ Greenhouses + Beekeeping for Artsakhsis ”; page 9; 12p. Document available in PDF format.
12Information retrieved from 24 hour long story highlights shared by Yerazad Coalition on their Instagram social media account.
13Information given by Arya Jemal and retrieved from 24 hour long story highlights shared by Yerazad Coalition on their Instagram social media account.
14Jemal, Arya; “ Greenhouses + Beekeeping for Artsakhsis ”; page 11; 12p. Document available in PDF format.
15The UN provides a list of 17 worldwide sustainability goals, which they call a list of sustainability solutions. “ The 17 Goals ”; an interactive webpage; United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Division for Sustainable Development Goals; date unknown; retrieved online. URL:
16“ Environmental Education ”; AUA Acopian Center for the Environment; the AUA official website; retrieved online: URL:
17One example features in this article about an initiative coordinated by Green Lane Agricultural Assistance Armenia in Shirak: “ Sustainable agriculture and women’s empowerment in Armenia ”; European Association for the Education of Adults; 30 October 2023; retrieved online. URL:
18Popescu Slavikova, Sara; Popescu, Ovidiu; “ 10 Sustainable Agriculture Methods and Farming Practices ”; Greentumble; 23 September 2015; retrieved online. URL:
19Contributor; “ The Importance of Sunflowers for Honeybees ”; Honeybee Hobbyist; 30 November 2023; retrieved online. URL: