Primary Donor(s): NEF core funds, Armenia Fund of the US, Business Pareta
In spite of a decade of steady progress, rural Armenia (where 30 percent of the country’s population lives) continues to suffer from poverty and unemployment. Furthermore, rural areas have been particularly hard hit by the global economic crisis, with Armenians confronting a loss of income and employment opportunities, significant drops in remittances, and increasing costs. After steadily increasing, GDP dropped by 15 percent in 2009, and unemployment reached 7.1 percent (8.8 percent in the area targeted by the NEF consortium). Local and international organizations have invested significantly in rural infrastructure and social services, but low income prevents many rural people from benefitting.
In partnership with Armenia Fund USA and Business Pareta, NEF is implementing the Rural Armenia Local Economic Development program with the aim of stimulating the creation of businesses and jobs. A pilot phase focusing on Tavush and Gegharkunik Marzes produced promising results: initial sector competitiveness analyses, business development training for 53 small entrepreneurs, and 32 business plans in areas as diverse as livestock, fish farming and fruit and vegetable production. Most recently, with additional support from the German aid organization, GTZ, and the Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), the NEF consortium has created a micro-franchised network of rural 20 IT centers, with an emphasis on encouraging the participation of women entrepreneurs.
Based on these initial successes, NEF and its partners are now poised to consolidate impacts in Tavush and Gegharkunik and expand into additional sectors and geographic areas.