Elita Alaverdyan wants to open a bakery in her village of Kirants. There currently is no bakery there or in the surrounding villages, and locals must bring bread and other baked goods from Ijevan or even Yerevan. (Photo: ONEArmenia)
ONEArmenia, in partnership with Sahman NGO, has launched a new program to support micro and small businesses in communities located on Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan.
The LeverEdge Program will give budding entrepreneurs in the northeast Tavush province the resources and tools they need to create a new business or expand existing ones, beginning now until 2020. To ensure each business achieves sustained profitability, the program will also provide business management training and support to all program participants.
An Unfrozen Conflict Exacerbating Unemployment In Border Villages
Despite the 1994 ceasefire, the conflict with Azerbaijan has not quite ended for border communities in Tavush. Agriculture and animal husbandry are the main sources of income for many in Tavush, but due to the risk of sniper fire from across the border, arable land is left unused, contributing to unemployment and poverty.
To support their families, many seek jobs elsewhere, and the subsequent depopulation of these border communities creates a security threat not just for Tavush, but for the entire country. ONEArmenia has traveled to Tavush many times for previous projects with Sahman NGO, and has found that despite the difficulty of life on the border, the people there do not want to leave their homes.
“The LeverEdge Program is a real game-changer for Tavush. We’re not just giving people the opportunity to sustain themselves by creating jobs. Our aim is to change people’s lives and strengthen communities on the border,” says George Tabakyan, president and co-founder of Sahman NGO. “Despite the ceasefire, people in Tavush’s border communities are still defending the country. They have to deal with landmines, snipers, and other dangers that we don’t have to deal with. We owe them our support.”
Creating An Alternative Path To Sustainable Development
The LeverEdge Program will catalyze job creation on the border, and fill the gap that traditional financing has been unable to close in Armenia’s most vulnerable communities. To participate in the program, families apply with a business idea based on skills and resources they already have. Instead of providing seed capital in the form of cash, Sahman NGO procures the physical equipment and tools each business needs to get started. From there, applicants start or scale their businesses, and contribute to the development of their communities.
As businesses grow, they are carefully monitored, and the impact created by the program is measured using ONEArmenia’s impact measurement tool. The first and current pool of LeverEdge is supporting 23 businesses in the villages of Sevqar, Nerqin Tsaghkavan, and Kirants. The businesses are as diverse as the needs and abilities of the people of Tavush, and include honey and dairy farms, an auto shop, a bakery, beauty salons, and many others.
From Charity-based Crowdfunding To Social Impact Investing
The launch of the LeverEdge Program marks a shift in ONEArmenia’s overall strategy for bringing the country from survive to thrive, its mission since it began crowdfunding for development projects in 2012.
“Armenia has huge potential in small and medium-sized enterprise. We want everyone everywhere to have the opportunity to invest proactively in the country’s future, and prime the pump of economic development,” says Chief Innovation Officer Tatev Petrossian.
ONEArmenia’s programs not only tackle critical problems facing Armenia’s and Artsakh’s development, but also contribute to a larger global push to end poverty everywhere.
The LeverEdge Program specifically works toward achieving two UN Sustainable Development Goals: No poverty, and decent work and economic growth.
“Rather than organizing multiple different crowdfunding campaigns every year, we are now focusing on just two programs—supporting small businesses in Tavush, and removing all landmines from Artsakh, which we will begin fundraising for later this year. We will work on these programs for the next three years,” explains Operations Director Charlotte Poulain. “One aspect of our shift in strategy was the kickoff of our monthly donor program, ONECore, earlier this year, which allows donors to engage more closely with our programs and their outcomes.”
Donate to the LeverEdge Program and strengthen Armenia’s borders one business at a time.