Nestled on the quiet slopes of the Armenasar Mountains, an area of rolling green and stone walls, 10 families run Navur Milking Point.

In early May, the two families head up to the mountains from their villages of Navur and Itsakar to spend six months tending to their cows and producing, storing and selling milk, yogurt and cheese. While the rest of the year the families keep their cows with them in their home villages, they say life in the mountains is better for everyone. In fact, the higher-quality products they can sell from this particular six-month production period in the mountains can supplement their income for the entire year. (The cold is too harsh to remain in the mountains the entire year.)

In 2017, FAR, UNDP/GEF Small Grants Programme and the Austrian Development Agency, supported Strategic Development Agency, a local NGO, to improve cattle breeding efficiency through the Cow Shelter and Milking Parlor Project in the villages of the Berd Region in Tavush Province. The long-term objective of the program is to contribute to sustainable growth of communities like Navur and Itsakar, which are dependent on income-generation from livestock.

“We have to milk about 60 cows twice a day, in the mornings and in the evenings. Each process takes about two hours,” said 63-year-old Tsoghik Hayrapetyan, as he showed off the barn and milking parlor. “I have been milking cows since 1971. I used to work at the Paravakar Dairy Farm until 1991, when I started breeding my own cattle. I currently have eight cows here.”

The “parlor,” or milking area, is equipped with all of the essential facilities and accommodations for both the cattle and milk processing. Dairy farmers can easily transfer the milk into bulk tanks and put it in specially designed sinks to keep it cold.

Tsoghik noted that cattle require shelter from extreme heat and cold. “Previously during warm weather, the milk would go bad so we had to dump out the whole tank or give it to the pigs and dogs. Now, the problem is solved,” he said.

“Without such infrastructure, it’s impossible to benefit from the abundance of the area’s natural resources. Cows would often graze in nearby fields, which is detrimental to the environment,” noted FAR Economic Development Projects Manager Eric Baghdasaryan.

Co-op member Nara Ohanyan, 33, brings her entire family with her for her stay in the mountains. Gagik, 14, Gevorg, 13, Kristine, 10, and Lia, 3, like to run around up the hills. Nara’s family makes $414 on average, which allows them to save money for the other six months of the year as this is a seasonal job. “It’s nice here. The nature is gorgeous, the water is cold, and the air is fresh; because of no access to the power my children can’t watch TV, but I want them to develop an appreciation and love of nature,” she said.