Friday, August 13, 2004

Though the following proposal to the US government’s Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program may look good on paper, this is another absurd proposal from the Armenian government that will just further perpetuate corruption and make some already powerful and rich people more powerful, richer and help root them deeper in place so removing them will become harder.

This proposal which I would love to see the details of is proposing that we spend from $2,545.45 to $3,333.33 per hectare to improve the quality of the soil in order to increase yields by 40%.

If you want to know how to increase yields by 50%, all you have to do is apply basic rules of agriculture which have been proven in Artsakh, that you don’t follow the wisdom of 70 years ago that said in order to “clean” the field, after harvest, you burn the remaining dried vegetation, plow and plant. No my friends, this just does not work and dries out the soil. What does work is not to burn, plow deeper and allow the soil to rest every 3rd year.

A friend of mine did just this and while his neighbors on 4 sides of him have been doing it the burning way for years, he did it the right way, yielded over 50% more than they did, meaning he got over 3 tons of wheat per hectare, while they got only a ton and a half per hectare.

If we want to improve agriculture output and put to use our 273,000 of irrigated arable lands, then take that $14 million (enough for 63,636 hectares to be planted with wheat) and provide good information and real loans to farmers, so they can learn to fish for themselves.

Just so you better understand the costs of what it takes to plant a hectare of land with wheat, in all, it’s around $120. If the land is going to be planted for the first time after being neglected for many years, you have to add an additional $100 for a plantation plowing (these figures are based on my personal observations).

Now where the additional $2,000 to $3,000 per hectare is being spent, I’m really not sure, but have a really good idea.
Thursday 12, August 2004

Government Seeks U.S. Aid For Land Improvement

By Armen Zakarian

The Armenian government disclosed on Thursday its first proposals for additional U.S. assistance under the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program, saying it will seek funds to fertilize and expand Armenia’s scarce agricultural lands.

Officials said the cabinet approved a $14 million project drawn up by the Armenian Ministry of Agriculture to “radically improve” the quality of 5,500 hectares of land mostly located in the southern Ararat Valley [$2,545.45 per hectare].

Only 2,500 of it is being cultivated. According to a senior ministry official, Mamikon Gasparian, the U.S. money would increase yields of the crops grown there by up to 40 percent. He said it would also help to make the remaining 3,000 hectares arable.

Gasparian said the project is part of a broader government plan for the melioration of 30,000 hectares of arable land. The plan’s total cost is close to $100 million and its implementation will take years, he said [$3,333.33 per hectare].

The total area of irrigated arable lands in Armenia is estimated at 273,000 hectares. About one third of them are located in the Ararat Valley, the mountainous country’s main supplier of fruits and vegetables.

Armenia, which has already been a major per-capita recipient of U.S. assistance, is eligible for MCA funding along with 15 other developing nations. The stated purpose of the scheme announced by President George W. Bush in 2002 is to promote economic and political reforms around the world.

Under the terms of the MCA, Armenia must submit specific proposals as to how much money it needs and for what purpose. A special government commission headed by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian has been working on them since last spring.

Markarian said earlier that the government would like to primarily spend the extra U.S. funds on the reconstruction of the battered infrastructure of the country’s impoverished rural regions. He said Yerevan hopes to secure at least $500 million in MCA funding in the next five years.

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