Aquasource as an Innovative Agro-technology for Meghri Region

Global climate change has been an emerging problem for our planet since the 60s of the last century. There is presently an overwhelming scientific consensus as to whether what’s happening to the climate is human-induced or simply the routine of global transformation. Provided global warming increasing and species and their habitats drastically decreasing chances for ecosystems to adapt these rapid circumstances are diminishing.

Armenia, characterized by a rather complex mountainous terrain with large difference in altitude, is fairly vulnerable in the light of global weather and climatic conditions. This cannot but have its inevitable corollary not only upon agriculture worldwide but also in Armenia with consideration to the role of agriculture and its economic potential on the overall development of the country. Furthermore, Armenia does not seem to be efficiently making use of its agricultural potential due to the common approach to it as being non-profitable. Alongside with the existing problems related to irrigation, human involvement, lack of availability of innovative technologies, agriculture being restricted to remote areas chiefly, Armenia faces a serious challenge of migration, because the young do not believe in the agro-potential and are skeptical about its sustainability as a business. Hence, agriculture remains at the mercy of the elderly who are more comfortable viewing agriculture as a small-scale way of life employing traditional word-of-mouth cultivation techniques and skills.

Markets for Meghri (M4M) puts special emphasis upon the engagement of youth in further development of agriculture in Meghri given the climate peculiarities of the region as being the warmest in Armenia with limited land resources and not well-organized and up-to-date irrigation system, relative lack of youth interest in agriculture, and most importantly high-quality fresh and dry fruit production.

As an inalienable part of its mission, the project endeavors to violate the traditional agricultural platform of Meghri by actually introducing innovative technologies that seem to be the only way of promoting the notion of agriculture as not only sustainable and profitable business but also rewarding and tempting livelihood. Moreover, the project trusts that proper appreciation of innovative technologies like “Aquasource” will be recorded by the young because innovation and youth are inextricable in the sense that they are flexible, adaptable, and open to a variety of circumstances.

Aquasource is a new generation base polymer characterized by huge absorbency and a unique ability of storing moisture. Aquasource is able to absorb and bind in its molecules moisture from irrigation, precipitation, dew and fog and provide the plant with water during aridity. The polymer was tested in several regions of the country by Ecotechnology LLC which is the local producer of Aquasource polymer. The probation came to prove that the polymer fosters yield of plants, as well as their quality and soundness.

In the light of the aforementioned problems related to the scarcity of water resources and proper irrigation system, the technology is particularly suitable for Meghri climate conditions because it supplies water in proper amount and on time. Concomitantly, the polymer can be referred to as an alternative solution to cope with dryness since it can be used by each farmer individually after relevant trainings conducted for a few times within the framework of the project. About sixty farmers from three different communities of Meghri region namely Nrnadzor, Shvanidzor and Meghri city participated in these trainings and were provided with informative and educational materials. Up to fifty farmers were inclined to test the polymer in their orchards. The farmers simply were taken aback at the results. Sargis Qaryan from Alvank was one of those fifty farmers who expressed the wish to test out Aquasource notwithstanding the skepticism and distrust he had towards this unfamiliar technique: “I was planning to go off on a vacation for a couple of weeks, so I watered my land. I came back in 15 days’ time and was simply shocked with what I saw. All my trees withered except for those with the polymer injected. What I figured was that the trees with Aquasource survive from five to seven days more than those plainly watered.” Sargis expressed willingness to make use of the polymer in the future for his best varieties of trees increasing the number of trees in the meantime. “I’m thankful to the project for introducing these innovations to us; otherwise it would’ve never flashed across our minds that things like that are even possible, let alone use them in our orchards.” Even though there are already evidences of success in these individual cases, according to the senior expert from Ecotechnology: “The overall effect will be seen only after one year when the roots of the trees will fully coalesce with the polymer and the absorption process will be entirely executed”.

To further enhance engagement of the young in agriculture, the project hosted interns from Agribusiness Teaching Center (ATC), who were directly involved in the injection process and were first to practice suchlike innovations with local farmers. The project enrolled young interns so as to create a platform for cooperation between young professionals in the field and local farmers. Likewise, young interns served as role-models for their peers living in rural regions of Armenia. This new technology has thus been eagerly embraced by both interns and local young farmers. It actually triggered their motivation and zest to expand their knowledge and skills in the sphere of agriculture.

Artashes Alexanyan, one of the interns, is excited: “We were all so enthusiastic about being the first-hand users of Aquasource in the sense that we were directly involved in the injection process. It felt like we gave flesh to an invention. It was even more rewarding to see the results of our work, because Aquasource is a unique way of storing water and kind of making the tree water itself in reduced circumstances. It was so exciting to wake up every morning and try out a new orchard and give second breath to a new tree and talk to local young farmers, too, who did not have the slightest clue that something like so-called self-watering trees could exist”.

The interns were grateful to the project for giving them a new perspective that agriculture is not only a laborious activity but can even be creative, interesting and fun. They cherish the hope that they succeeded in passing their enthusiasm and keenness over to the local young farmers who were the witnesses of the learning-by-doing process.

The polymer probation is currently monitored and supervised by M4M to further engage more farmers in using and evaluating the need of Aquasource as well as to be aware of its costs, benefits, and accessibility. M4M also attaches special importance to the involvement of the young who will perceive agriculture anew, view it anew, and work it anew.