AUA Acopian Center Premieres Its Film ‘Wild Plant Harvest in Armenia’2 min read
YEREVAN, Armenia — On December 18, 2021, over 40 attendees from various regions of Armenia gathered in the Manoogian Hall of the American University of Armenia (AUA) for the premiere of the film “Wild Plant Harvest in Armenia” produced by the AUA Acopian Center for the Environment. This production is realized as part of GATES, a collaborative four-year project implemented by the Acopian Center in collaboration with the University of Hohenheim (UHOH). The project is supported by DAAD, the German Academic Exchange Service, with funding from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
“The film features five individuals, or ‘heroes’ as we call them, who harvest wild plants sustainably, promoting economic well-being while ensuring biodiversity protection and advancing cultural preservation and innovation,” says Gohar Shahinyan, the GATES project coordinator at the AUA Acopian Center.
The five heroes and their stories are:
- Gnel Nazanyan, who, inspired by the healing powers of wild plants, founded Darman (meaning ‘cure’), a natural tea collection and production company that is now exporting its products to many countries;
- Nazik Hovhannisyan, who collects wild edible plants and uses them year-round to provide her family with good nutrition;
- Satenik Khachatryan, who, with the help of her sister Azatuhi, teaches children to recognize and protect wild plants through new educational methods used at their summer agricultural camps;
- Nune Sarukhanyan, who encourages rural communities to transition away from large-scale wild harvest to the cultivation of plants for consumption; and
- Ani Hovhannisyan, who explores the new tastes of traditional wild plants in her experimental kitchen — Arm Food Lab.
The 25-minute film presentation was followed by a formal appreciation of the film heroes, gifting each of them with the AUA Acopian Center’s “Sustainable Harvest Clippers” in recognition of their continuing work. During the lively discussion and Q&A session following the film viewing, students from Noyemberyan (Tavush region), who are setting up an experimental greenhouse in their respective school, were particularly active asking several probing questions: “Given your experience, what would you do differently?” “How should we go about identifying demand in the market?” “What plants would you recommend to cultivate in a permaculture greenhouse?” “What was the first question you asked yourself before starting your venture?”
“The inspiration for the film was the master’s thesis by Miriam Rueger, a UHOH student from Germany who spent a summer in Armenia through the GATES project,” says Shahinyan. Rueger conducted research on the topics of wild plant harvesting practices, biodiversity conservation, and women’s role in those types of ventures.
“The success of the film is greatly due to not only the compelling stories told by the heroes but also the masterful filmmaking of Nelli Rafaelyan of Nelart,” adds Shahinyan. “She conducted extensive fieldwork last spring, searching and documenting the wild plant harvest and processing throughout Armenia. During that time, she found most of these stories and shared them in a way that is inspiring and engaging.”
The film “Wild Plant Harvest in Armenia” is available online on the AUA Acopian Center’s YouTube channel.
The AUA Acopian Center for the Environment, a research center of the American University of Armenia (AUA), 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 protection, and conservation, as well as greening the built environment, clean energy, and energy efficiency, as well as information technology and the environment.