Shen is a pioneer in introducing organic agriculture practices in Armenia aiming at creation of a new sustainable and environmentally friendly income source for rural households. Starting from 2000 till 2012 Shen with financial and thematic support of HEKS-EPER (Switzerland) as a main partner was promoting the development of organic agriculture disseminating information on organic agriculture cultivation methods among farmer groups and individual farmers. This endeavour was a part of EPER regional programme in South Caucasus countries. It had been done through developing free advisory services to farmers as well as raising awareness on organic fruits among the local consumers. During these years other Shen's partners, namely Chene-France, EED (Germany), ICCO (the Netherlands), UNDP GEF, Regional Council of Auvergne Rhône-Alpes co-funded this project too.
The main objectives of the project were:
- initiating organic extension group;
- establishing private local organic certification body;
- introducing the new organic agricultural inputs to the farmers,
- developing both export and local markets,
- lobbying and advocacy activities.
Upon past 12 years Shen can assume that all mentioned objectives are principally met and the organic food sector is evolving in Armenia. In fact, the further development of the sector is taken over by Armenian businesses. As a result of this efforts toady several tens organic farms mainly fruit orchards are established in Armenia.
Currently EU and Austrian Development Agency are implementing a project, Organic Agriculture Support Initiative (OASI) in Armenia. This project arrays a comprehensive range of areas starting from legislative amendments on organic agriculture, promotion of organic extension services, developing curricula and a state-of-the-art textbook; providing both big and small-grants for farmers seeking to start, diversify or expand organic production. Tsirani Aygi LLC is among several organic producers, big grantees, supported by OASI. As a result of that project except of upgrade of the orchards of Tsirani Aygi LLC an organic horticulture cooperative has been established with the support of Tsirani Aygi LLC.
Demonstrative educational centre of organic agriculture
The project started with the funds provided by Small Grants Program of UN Global Environmental Fund, EED and Shen-France in 2012. The Demonstrative Educational Center of Organic Agriculture (in Akunq community, Kotayq marz) was introducing and testing organic and environmentally friendly cultivation methods, effective use of technologies and equipment. The fundamental principles of organic agriculture - biodiversity preservation, efficient usage of soil and water, utilisation of solar energy would be put into practise at the Center. The purpose of establishing such educational centre was to create an advisory hub equipped with new technologies for the farmers of Armenia, where seminars and hands-on trainings would be organized.
Given that the National Agrarian University of Armenia initiated a master's program in organic agriculture in 2019, Shen NGO Board, with the approval of the UN Global Environmental Fund, donated the training center to ANAU, on a condition that it must be managed as a certified organic demonstration-training center. Another condition is that Shen NGO will continue providing free training and consulting for organic farmers.
Use of bumblebees in organic orchards
In 2013 Shen's Extension group decided to use bumblebees to increase the effectiveness of pollination in organic orchards. This method is practised world-wide, whereas its use in Armenia is still limited. TRIPOL is an effective product ensuring excellent pollination of a number of fruit and vegetable crops, both indoors and outdoors. The benefits of Innovative natural pollination for the user are as follows:
- saving labour costs,
- improvement of crop quality,
- increase of productivity,
- pollination less dependent on weather conditions and native pollinators,
- reduction of pollen quantity in glasshouse improves working environment,
- bumblebees are compatible with honeybees.