Livestock Development in the South of Armenia

Project completed
Armenian Farmer with his calf
An armenian farmer with his calf. © SDC

In the provinces of Syunik and Vayots Dzor in southern Armenia, the agricultural sector mostly comprises subsistence farming where farmers are barely able to support their households. This project aims to help farmers increase their milk and meat production, and thus their incomes, by supporting local veterinary services (to improve animal health), facilitating access to milk and meat markets, and promoting the sharing of know-how among farmers.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Agriculture & food security
Agricultural development
Agricultural research
Agricultural services & market
01.09.2014 - 31.12.2021
CHF  11’245’756

The Syunik and Vayots Dzor provinces in southern Armenia are a remote and mountainous area on the borders with Iran and Azerbaijan. Agriculture is the country's main economic sector employing almost 75% of the working population, mostly in dairy and meat production. Nevertheless, it is still primarily made up of subsistence farming. Many of the farmers in Syunik and Vayots Dzor can be classed as vulnerable: they have one or two head of cattle and sell a small amount of their produce, but they are scarcely able to feed their own families.

Armenian farmers in general are still confronted with considerable challenges, including:  

  • Very poor road conditions hinder access to markets
  • Milk collections are very irregular
  • Available veterinary services are inadequate
  • Farmers are unable to generate extra income to invest in new animals, equipment or seed
  • Accessing information and exchanging expertise are difficult if not impossible
  • The productivity and health of farm animals are jeopardised by an inadequate diet and the decrease in the quality of the livestock as a result of years of hybridisation. Milk production per head of cattle has decreased on average by roughly 35% since the collapse of the Soviet Union.  

In spite of the challenges, however, it is important to point out that farming in Armenia has strong potential for growth. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) project aims to fulfil this potential by helping farmers from 100 rural communities across Syunik and Vayots Dzor increase their milk and meat production, and thereby their incomes. 

More efficient markets

The project focuses on several core activities, first and foremost of which is to ensure better access for farmers to milk and meat markets. This has potential because there is high demand for good quality raw milk and cheese in Armenia. Demand for good quality fresh meat is also high in Armenia and there is a growing export market in neighbouring Iran. What is needed is to link up the various stages of the production chain between farmers and consumers. The project aims in particular to connect farmers with the intermediaries – the meat and milk processing companies – by creating contacts for example between the dairy industry and farmers in order to organise regular milk collections, which is an essential precondition for a milk market.

Between 2011 and 2014, annual milk sales grew from 9,900 to 18,700 tonnes and meat sales from 500 to 710 tonnes.

More productive cattle

The project's second priority is to increase the livestock yield, which cannot be achieved without improving the animals' health. It therefore also aims to promote farmers' access not only to veterinary services, such as artificial insemination, but also to more varied and nutritional fodder.

The work in this field has already produced results. Between 2011 and 2014, animal productivity increased by 20% and the number of dairy cows increased by 15%.  

In addition, farmers can make use of a framework that helps them develop their skills in agricultural management, thereby increasing the quantity and quality of their meat and milk products. Veterinarians and meat and milk buyers are encouraged to provide on the spot training and advice on issues such as breeding and milk production.

More responsive local authorities

Lastly, the project team works together with the local authorities in Syunik and Vayots Dzor to raise awareness of the economic importance of the rural community to the region and the need to support it – not only at the local level but also to defend its interests regionally and country-wide. It is therefore essential for farmers to be able to access suitable credit when they want to invest in their farms. Local authorities are therefore encouraged to provide clear information to farmers about what financing is available to them, and under what terms.