Trees are a necessity of life, however they are far more important than most people realize. On Tuesday, February 25, 2003, students and community members gathered at the Alice Peters Auditorium of the University Business Center, to listen to a speech by Jeff Masarjian, who is the executive director of the Watertown, MA based Armenia Tree Project.
Mr. Masarjian was appointed as executive director of ATP in 2001. Since his arrival, ATP has reached new heights in helping Armenia regain its forest heritage. Mr. Masarjian spoke about his organization and a coalition to reinvigorate Armenia’s forests. After his speech, the audience had a chance to watch a short film put together by the ATP and following the film they had an opportunity to ask questions to Mr. Masarjian.
The Armenia Tree Project is a self-financed program that was founded in 1993 to advance Armenia’s economic and social development through reforestation. “Our goal is to assist the Armenian people in using trees to improve their standard of living and protect the global environment,” stated Mr. Masarjian. Currently ATP employs forty-eight people in Armenia; their jobs vary from giving lectures about tree care to actually planting trees. The ATP recently earned the Arabia Day Project Award for its contributions not only to Armenia’s ecological health, but to the world’s environment as well.
Trees clean the very air we breathe, provide fruits, nuts, and are a must in building homes. Only a century ago, twenty-five percent of Armenia was covered with trees. In the last couple of decades that number has plummeted to eight percent. In 1991, the war with Azerbaijan resulted in a blockade of Armenia by the Azeris, who suspended Armenia’s fuel and energy sources. The results of the war led many Armenians to initiate massive tree cutting campaigns for fuel and energy. This year’s arctic winter did not help much either. Temperatures reached twenty-five degrees below zero, which led to the deaths of thousands of trees. Armenia is gradually becoming more and more deprived of all the things that trees provide. Since its birth, ATP has planted trees to curtail the ongoing erosion of Armenia’s trees and its soil.
Planting trees is a wonderful activity, which is not only good for the environment, but also provides a chance for people of all ages in the community to come together and work for a common goal. This wonderful program has already established two tree nurseries in the cities of Kareen and Khachpar. Each nursery produces approximately forty thousand trees annually. The trees are incubated in the nurseries until they are ready to plant. From the nurseries the trees are disseminated to schools, retirement homes, orphanages, hospitals, parks, and anywhere they can prosper. Nut, fruit, and oak trees are just a few of many species of trees planted in Armenia by the ATP.
The ATP, has played a vital role in the betterment of Armenia’s flora and fauna. Furthermore it has built community involvement and also has provided much needed employment for Armenians in Armenia. The Armenian Tree Project is a self-financed program of the Armenian Assembly of America, and if you would like to contribute to its aspirations, contact it at: Armenian Tree Project 65 Main Street, Watertown MA 02472, or visit their website at www.armeniatree.org.