Workshop on Regulating Wild Plant Harvest in Armenia
YEREVAN, Armenia — On September 16, 2020, the American University of Armenia (AUA) Acopian Center for the Environment organized a workshop on regulating the harvest of wild plants in Armenia, bringing together over 40 representatives of governmental agencies, civil society, business, international organizations, and academic institutions.
The workshop facilitated a discussion among stakeholders about ways in which wild plant harvest in Armenia can be regulated to achieve the dual policy goals of economic and food security for rural populations while protecting the country’s rich plant biodiversity.
Alen Amirkhanian, the director of the AUA Acopian Center for the Environment, notes, “Armenia is blessed with a wealth of biodiversity, including plant biodiversity. It is also blessed with the traditional knowledge of nutritional and health benefits for humans from these plants. With increasing demand for harvested wild plants, though, there are real pressures on many plant species and ecosystems. We need to figure out how to work with communities that rely on this important resource for their livelihood to improve the conservation and protection of rare plant species with high ecological value. There is a lot we can learn from the experiences of other countries. Hopefully with our solutions, Armenia can also serve as a positive example from which others can learn.”
The workshop was part of the Managing the Regulated Wild Plant Collection in Armenia project, implemented by the AUA Acopian Center for the Environment in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Armenia and Time Land Scientific-Educational Foundation. Funding for the project is provided by the U.S. Embassy in Armenia.
Workshop participants discussed improving community engagement, public-private partnerships, changes in legislation, better monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, and awareness-raising campaigns to help improve the government’s capacity to effectively regulate wild plant collection. The research, workshop discussions, and consultative meetings will result in the final deliverable of the project: an action plan for the Government of Armenia to take the regulatory, institutional, educational, and investment steps needed to achieve the policy goals regarding wild plant harvest. The recording of the workshop is available on the AUA Acopian Center’s YouTube channel.
In her opening remarks, Voskehat Grigoryan, the head of the Biodiversity and Biosafety Policy Division at the Ministry of Environment, commented, “Given the wide representation of biodiversity, especially flora species, and the wide range of wild edible and medicinal plants used by the population, the Ministry strongly supports and welcomes the implementation of this project and workshop in the Republic of Armenia.” Grigoryan added that the Ministry is currently implementing a wide range of legislative changes, including amendments to the Law on Protected Areas and the Law on Flora. She believes the results achieved within this project will contribute to the changes and the stakeholders’ perspectives will be taken into consideration.
To frame the discussion, Dr. Vahram Elagoz, the manager of the project at the AUA Acopian Center, presented a review of literature and past initiatives on the topic. He also introduced the online platform developed as part of the project, enabling key stakeholders to share their perspectives on the sustainable and resilient future of this important sector. The platform offers sector-specific resources related to wild plant harvesting and monitoring, including research publications and legislative and policy documents.
Husik Ghukasyan, the director of Time Land Foundation, reflects on the value of such initiatives. “Time Land Foundation operates in the Getik Valley and its main direction is scientific-educational activity. We also focus on the environment, ensuring the development of communities without harming nature and being in harmony with nature. It may seem to us that wild plants are inexhaustible, but they also run out like all resources. We are very happy about this initiative and are glad that we took an active part in this process and that our voice was heard. Our valley is a forested area, and people mainly consider the harvesting of wild plants as a source of income. We will be glad if these regulations also regulate the relationship between the collectors and buyers, improve the quality of services provided by forest management bodies, help people receive better services from these organizations, and also help people in terms of raising awareness and increasing knowledge. We have examples in our region of creating added value based on wild plants, and the support in creating value-added products will contribute to the increase of the income of the people living in our region. We also hope that the sector will be regulated in terms of legislation and administration.”
Dr. Heghine Grigoryan, the AUA Acopian Center’s legal expert on the project, presented the legislative and institutional gaps she had analyzed on the topic of wild plant harvesting in Armenia, suggesting directions for reform. The project’s grants manager, Siranush Harutyunyan, and project assistant, Tatev Haroyan, also presented an overview of the project, its deliverables, and the results of a stakeholder survey conducted prior to the workshop on key issues of concern in this field.
Christopher Ellis, the economic and commercial officer of the U.S. Embassy in Armenia, looks forward to the positive results of the project. “The U.S. is very firmly focused on efforts to support the development of democratic institutions both here in Armenia and throughout the rest of the world to work toward environmental and economic sustainability, and to guide discussion between governments and civil society, including on matters related to the environment, wildlife, and good governance in the sector. We are delighted to have had the opportunity to support the critical work in this regard through this project. We certainly look forward to seeing how this work will set the stage for improvement in the rule of law, improvements in governance, improvements in natural resource management, and also eradicating wildlife trafficking more broadly.”
The AUA Acopian Center for the Environment, a research center of the American University of Armenia, promotes the protection and restoration of the natural environment through research, education, and community outreach. The AUA Acopian Center’s focus areas include sustainable natural resource management, biodiversity, and conservation, greening the built environment, clean energy, and energy efficiency, as well as information technology and the environment.