Expanding the influencing work from local to national levels through multi-stakeholder engagement

Armenia’s economy is suffering from a severe crisis that is causing a decline in agricultural productivity and wages, lack of access to affordable loans, inputs and markets. This unfavourable setting is affecting in particular smallholder farmers from remote rural communities where the harsh changes on weather conditions are strongly impacting the crop productivity.

Since 2012, Oxfam's Economic Justice (EJ) Programme in Armenia has been challenging inequality, promoting sustainable livelihoods amongst smallholder farmers. The programme supports farmers to take collective actions through agricultural cooperatives; these help them reduce their individual costs and gain access to a wider range of support services and markets. Collective marketing and enhanced bargaining power have resulted in better prices for smallholder farmers and significant improvement in their livelihoods.

Nune Avagyan leads Oxfam’s established women agri-cooperative in Gomk community in Vayots Dzor province and she also acts acts as a member of Community Council.

The time has come for rural women to have a say, too. Oxfam programme not only changed my life, but also empowered me to bring change in my community”.

Photo: K. Hovhannisyan/Oxfam

Decisive Factors for the Program Success

Leveraging of programme model: Oxfam’s new model of rural business and social enterprise is based on the development of small-scale community agri-business infrastructures that are owned and managed by cooperatives. The income generated from their operations is re-invested in a social fund which is used for social projects benefiting the wider community.

National level influencing: Oxfam supports programmes at local scale and develops their impact from community to nationwide level through participatory and continuous national advocacy and campaigning. National influencing aims at creating a more conducive institutional and legal environment to improve smallholder farming in Armenia.

Multi-stakeholder engagement: Oxfam has promoted the establishment of a multi-stakeholder platform - the Agriculture Alliance-, which brings together civil society organisations with government and research institutions working on rural agricultural development in Armenia. The Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Ministry of Agriculture and Agriculture Alliance ensures close cooperation and partnership between civil society and state officials for pro-poor constructive policy work at national and province levels.

Gender mainstreaming: EJ programme is promoting women’s economic empowerment and leadership in remote regions of Armenia. Armenian women face many barriers to the equal participation in agricultural production and marketing chains. Oxfam supports the development of women’s agricultural businesses and builds their leadership capacities by engaging them in agricultural cooperative management structures and training programmes, as well as by engaging women farmers in specific gender sensitive value chains. Oxfam is also working to change agricultural policy in Armenia to make it more gender-sensitive. Agriculture Alliance recognises women’s marginalised role in agriculture, and supports the integration of women’s voices into the process of designing effective policies and strategies.

“Oxfam has given us the chance to rebuild something that we hadn’t had here for 20 years. It is a real lift for the whole community”, says Jema Gevorgyan, Lchkadzor cooperative member, who currently works in “Ayrum Fruits” as a technologist-consultant and new employees coacher.

By launching the “Ayrum Fruits” social enterprise in a rural borderline community of Armenia, Oxfam has created new economic and employment opportunities allowing local people in particular women to work their way out of poverty.

Photo: K. Hovhannisyan/Oxfam

The Impact of the Program

Participatory policy formation: Oxfam in collaboration with the Agriculture Alliance and Ministry of Agriculture has been involved in the development of the new national Strategy for Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development (SSARD) for 2015–25. Oxfam facilitated the participation of different stakeholders from community to national level in the development process of the strategy. The latter has been designed as a result of consultations with key agriculture stakeholders including direct beneficiaries, farmers and their cooperatives, private sector and policy makers. This model of participatory national policy formation has been highly acknowledged by the Agriculture Ministry of Armenia Armen Harutyunyan who during the presentation of the draft strategy affirmed:

“The new strategy is aimed to create favourable conditions for agricultural producers, to help modernize this sector and raise the level of food security. The policy document pays a special attention to reducing the risks in this sector; introduce path way to insurance and better lending terms. The strategy also rules out gender-based discrimination in agriculture”.

Gender sensitive policies: As a part of gender mainstreaming work, within the framework of EJ programme Oxfam has created the Guideline on Gender Analysis and Mainstreaming in Armenia which was officially adopted by the Ministry of Social and Labour. The guideline, now mandatory for the 10 provinces, is the first gender sensitive governmental document which ensures that access to credit and wider agricultural and social services for women is effectively implemented to enable their empowerment.

Adoption of Pro-poor agriculture policies: Thanks to Oxfam long term and intensive advocacy work and multi-stakeholder influencing, Armenia adopted the first law on Agriculture Cooperatives in December, 2015. This law recognises and protects the rights of cooperative farmer members, their unions and their legitimate interests. The government is also obliged to assist in the creation and development of cooperatives and to strengthen their economic viability. As a result farmers are now more directly engaged in agriculture cooperatives.

“We could prove that women can not only be good wives and mothers, but also successful farmers that inspire many people and who follow our example”, says Luiza Revazyan, the Head of the Sarigyugh community women only cooperative, which has 15 members.

“Women of our cooperative are more respected in the community and in their own families. The trust of people is the biggest achievement we’ve gained.

Photo: K. Hovhannisyan/Oxfam

The road ahead

By 2017 Oxfam in Armenia will undergo a period of transaction from the current program into “OxYGen” innovative foundation with strategic partnership with Oxfam International. After Oxfam spin off from Armenia, “OxYGen” will build on the reputation and achievements of the EJ programme to take forward work to impact on smallholder farming in the country.

By Vadim Uzunyan, Agriculture and Food Security Policy Programme Manager, Oxfam

Banner photo: Cristina García Rodero

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