Counting on Success: A family takes to the hills to master the art of sheep
23 july 2004
By Julia Hakobyan ArmeniaNow reporter
On a foot of a hill near Lake Sevan, where four-legged creatures
vastly outnumber the upright, an Armenian family has found a new home
and a chance for well being.
The Ghalichyan family left their home in Shorzha village two years ago
for the sake of their sheep, for grassland and vast expanses, and for
the chance to harmonize with nature.
Roam with a view
“We chose a place near pasture and a spring and built a house and
cattlepen,” says the head of the family Edik Ghalichyan. “We have
here all that is needed for living: shelter, food, work. We installed
electricity, built a bath and a basement for keeping food. The only
thing what we don’t have are neighbors, but by now we’ve gotten used
Ghalichayn, 58, his wife Yunik, their two sons with their families
made the decision to go to the mountains on an invitation from the
Four years ago the foundation launched “Sheep Farms”, a project that
promotes livestock breeding and offers farmers a way establish livable
The foundation (established in 1996 by U.S. businessman James
Tufenkian) distributed 258 sheep (eight rams and 250 ewes) among 10
families in each of four villages in Gegharkunik Region. Each group of
10 families also received a $4,500 loan for maintenance of the
heard. The families agreed to pay back the money and return a
same-sized herd within five years.
The Ghalichyans may turn out to be an exception in a program that has
proved challenging. Their individual herd (some 300) is bigger than
the collective herd from four years ago.
The Ghalichyans settled near grazing land
“We didn’t intend to leave the village in the beginning,” says
“But a big herd needs a big pasture. We had to take the herd each day
to the mountains, several kilometers from our house and stay there the
all day long. And once I came here with the sheep and decided to
It was not an easy decision to live communal village life for the
savage landscape and a herd of sheep. But the family was experiencing
financial hardships as most of the villagers and the idea of having
their own farm prevailed over the fear of social isolation.
The transition from small herd to family business has not been
easy. For example, brucellosis spread in the herd, and the
Ghalichyan’s had to destroy half their stock.
“We had been keeping sheep before, but taking care of such a big herd
caused many unexpected problems,” says Yunik, 52. “It took over two
years to learn all the details of farming from our own mistakes.”
Yunik says that they learned among other things that the first portion
of milk causes death for newborn lambs, a detail that they did not
“When we had a small herd while in our village and some lambs were
dying it did not disturb us, but now since we have a big herd the
death of lambs is very harmful for the further herd development,” she
Even though the herd has increased, the Ghalichyans have not yet
turned a profit. The seed money from the foundation covers expense for
80 tons of hay for feed during winter. Money made from selling wool
goes to cover costs of renovating sheep pens and buying vaccinations.
“We could not imagine how hard it would be to develop the farm,” says
Edik, “however we do not regret that we are here. Life was easy in
Soviet times, nowadays it is hard, but if you are ready to work hard
you will survive anywhere and in any times. Now we see the results of
our work and I hope soon our sheep will bring us profit”
The Ghalichyans also have cows, turkeys, hens and cover their daily
ration by trading milk, cheese and mutton for household necessities.
Samvel Gevorgyan, manager of Sheep Farm Project says that the project
implementation caused unexpected problems for the organizers as well.
The foundation founder and the flock
Gevorgyan says that they chose Gegharkunik as the most economically
area economically for the project, however could not expect that
farmers would have problems with farming.
Now, however: “Our experience in working with farmers demonstrates
that the villagers were not ready to work,” he says. “They experience
difficulties which we did not expect and for most families that work
appeared to be too hard.”
Only eight families (including Ghalichyan’s) out of the initial 40
succeeded to maintain the herds they got.
“In some cases the heads of the villages were not eager to cooperate
with us and were hindering the works of the families,” Gevorgyan
says. “It is because they do not have a clear idea what the contract
is, that we give loans, not money. We regularly organize meetings with
villagers to explain the project, their responsibilities and
duties. We hope that Armenian farmers will realize the advantages of
having their own farms.”
As for Ghalichyan family they hope they will manage to return the loan
and herd to foundation. The head of the family says that he would work
as hard as possible to secure the life of his family. Edik hopes that
his grandsons and their families would inherit his farm and the small
oasis in the mountain would become a successful family enterprise.
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress