Arev Nersisyan’s day kicks off with a special morning ritual. “Morning is a sacred part of my day,” she said cheerfully. “I make two cups of coffee for my husband and I, and we enjoy it on our balcony. Then we greet our livestock by slowly walking to the garden before moving on with our daily routine. After that, I rush to school, and Viktor to the bank.”

Arev Nersisiyan, 57, is a lifelong Berd resident. Since early childhood she has been active in public events. She was a lead volunteer organizer at school, and then later at university. In the Communist League, she eventually became the Komsomol Secretary. In the 80s, she met her husband Viktor Melkumyan, 58. She then started to work as a biology teacher before being offered a position as the school’s deputy director.

Arev and Viktor effectively use their farming land. They grow indoor and outdoor traditional crops, they have a livestock, and an abundance of colorful flowers right in front of their house. Life in remote Berd has not always been easy. Arev and her husband have faced a lot of hardships. When they used to grow outdoor crops, such as potatoes, carrots, beans, etc., they often couldn’t pick the harvest in time because of the harsh climate. However, they’ve managed to build a small “paradise,” as she calls it, thanks to their hard work and perseverance, and with help from FAR’s Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP).

In 2014, with support from BCPP, Arev became one of the first Berd community members to have been selected to receive a cost-effective greenhouse through a grant and an interest-free loan as part of BCPP’s economic component. This is now the third year that it has brought new hope and organic food to her family. The greenhouse has changed the landscape of her farm land. She is the first in Berd to harvest tomato, cucumber, and sweet and hot peppers locally in early June. According to Arev, she applied for BCPP with the hope of being able to grow fresh produce year-round, which later turned into a genuine desire for self-enhancement in organic cultivation.

“FAR’s support ignited my interest in developing my farming skills, and I started to grow vegetables and greens in rotation,” said Arev, who only uses organic fertilizer and vermiculture to feed her plants. Moreover, Arev does a lot of experiments in her greenhouse. For instance, she is currently growing tobacco together with tomato and pepper crops to eliminate bugs and fungal diseases.

As someone who also values giving back, Arev delivers half of her harvest to those in need. “I feel good about giving. It’s inside me, and I inject this charitable behavior into my students and my own children,” she said.

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP) is a multidimensional FAR project addressing child poverty in the region of Tavush, sponsored by the Edward and Helen Mardigian Foundation.