Continuing his month-long focus on Embassy initiatives to boost economic development in Armenia’s rural areas, U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills, Jr., on Tuesday visited the site of a cutting-edge solar fruit drying facility that was started with support from the U.S. Embassy.
The Ambassador toured the facility and met with some of the village residents who are able to use the facility to improve their abilities to bring their harvests to market.
“It is great to see creative, entrepreneurial people finding ways to help local, rural Armenian communities develop their economies while protecting our shared environment,” Ambassador Mills said. “It is great to see first-hand how our financial support of Ruzanna and her EcoGeneration NGO is paying off for the villagers of Nor Erznka. This is just one of the many ways the Embassy is partnering with the Armenian people as they find Armenian solutions to improving the economy.”
The solar dryer in the Nor Erznka village of Kotayk Region was opened in 2012 by EcoGeneration NGO. Funding for the dryer was provided to the NGO’s founder Ruzanna Martirosyan, an alumna of the U.S. Humphrey Fellowship Program, through the Embassy’s Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund grant program, which funds alumni of U.S. exchange programs as they work to improve conditions in Armenia.
In order to demonstrate the benefit of using solar energy to combat global climate change, EcoGeneration established the drying facility and provided training sessions to the villagers on how to dry their fruit harvest organically and using renewable energy. The facility is capable of drying 40 tons of local fresh produce and unique edible plants annually.
During his tour, the Ambassador learned that the NGO is also looking at using the site as a way to boost eco-tourism in the region. The group is working to organize eco-tours for students and the general public to the project site in order to demonstrate the solar dryer and provide explanation on its environmental and economic usefulness.
The tourism aspect of the project fits well with the “My Armenia” project launched by the Embassy last week. With $5 million in funding by USAID, “My Armenia” is a project through which the Smithsonian Institution will be working with local partners to develop tourism sites throughout Armenia that take advantage of the nation’s unique cultural heritage. Along with developing the sites, the project will work to develop the service infrastructure to facilitate tourism in rural Armenia.
“One of the aspects of Armenian cultural heritage that will be highlighted in the ‘My Armenia’ campaign is Armenia’s unique and delicious cuisine, and an important part of that cuisine is the agricultural products that you and other farmers produce, such as these wonderful fruits,” Ambassador Mills told the group of local villagers at the site. “I hope one day we’ll see many more tourists making this trip to visit your community. Such trips are a chance for tourists to really get to know the hospitable heart of the Armenian people.”