Modern Aquaculture Technologies Introduced in a Pilot Fishery

The ATTC site at the Armavir Farmer fishery.

Today, the ASPIRED Project team held the online presentation of the Aquaculture Technologies Transfer Center with participation of the USAID, Government, project partners and fish-farming sector representatives. 

In his welcoming remarks, the USAID’s Economic Growth Office Director, James Borger, emphasized the partnership between the USAID and the Government of Armenia in the water sector. He noted that USAID encourages use of innovative technologies and methods that will help curb groundwater extraction in the Ararat Valley.

Established in cooperation with the private fishery Armavir Farmer in Metsamor, the ATTC Project serves as an experimental base for testing and validating different aquaculture technologies on a single site. During the online presentation, the local aquaculture expert, Karen Aghababyan, introduced the ATTC project’s technical solutions and methods to the participants of the zoom conference. The international aquaculture expert David Stephen presented international best practice in aquaculture in the context of the ATTC Project.  

The ATTC Concept.
Solutions and best practice applied internationally.
International best practice: presentation by the Aquaculture Expert David Stephen.

The technologies and methods used at the ATTC include water recirculation combined with passive settling for removing solid organic particles from water, airlifting for enriching water with oxygen, use of bio- and phyto-filtration systems. The outlet water will be used for crayfish farming, after which the wastewater will undergo biological treatment in a reed-bed (wetland) facility before being discharged into the drainage system. This will help to minimize the possible negative impact on the environment. The system will recirculate about 70% of water, and only 30% of inlet water will be taken from the well. The Project will help to save 2.5 mln m3 of water and generate energy savings equivalent to 63 MWh per year.  

Cray-fish breeding ponds at the ATTC.

Once proven successful, these technologies and best practices can be replicated by other fish-farm owners of the region. An individual entrepreneur from Masis region, Artem Torosyan, has already built a recirculation system in his fishery. He applied both airlift pumps and sludge removal system, having adapted the ATTC solutions to his conditions. The fishery produces about 80 tons of fish and by the feedback of Artem Torosyan, the airlift pumps ensure the efficiency of fish production and good quality of fish produce.

Fish-farming industry is one of the largest consumers of the groundwater resources of the Ararat Valley, accounting for some 50% of the water use. The representative of the Ministry of Economy, Tigran Aleksanyan, acknowledged the efforts of the USAID and ASPIRED Project, aimed at increasing the efficiency of the fish-farming sector through innovations and water-saving solutions, including use of the outlet water from fish-farms for irrigation. Based on the recent data of the Armenian Ministry of Economy, the local aquaculture sector output ranges between 17,000-18,000 tons of fish per year, producing mostly trout and sturgeon. About 20-30% of this fish produce is exported to Russia, Georgia, USA, UAE, Ukraine and other countries.  Application of water saving technologies for aquaculture production will help to minimize costs and achieve a more rational use of the groundwater resources by the fish-farmers.  

CAPACITY BUILDING AS THE FOUNDATION FOR SUSTAINABILITY

Left to right: Interns Nara Mnatsakanyan and Inga Siradeghyan.

In December 2019, two graduate students from the Yerevan State University, Department of Geography and Geology started their internship in the Advanced Science and Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development (ASPIRED) Project, a United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded activity. Over the past ten months, they successfully completed their assignments and deliverables, and have helped enhance sustainable management of groundwater resources in Ararat Valley of Armenia. Their assignments  were quite technical and complex, so Project Staff provided  continuous mentorship and supervision. We talked to the interns who shared their impressions of the internship: what they learned, what experience and knowledge they gained during the relatively short period of internship, how they applied them in practice. 

Practical application of knowledge is the key to becoming a good professional…

Inga Siradeghyan

Ms. Siradeghyan attending a training session on geographic information systems contextual tools for mapping.

“Since I was a student, I dreamed of obtaining a Master’s degree to deepen my professional knowledge and pave my way for a future career. My Master’s thesis was about modeling and assessment of the level of danger of avalanches in Zangezur Mountain Range of Syunik region of Armenia. The topic was not easy, requiring advanced tools and skills for their targeted application. This is where the opportunity with the ASPIRED Project internship came to help.

After joining the USAID ASPIRED Project, a new and endless horizon opened for me. As an intern, I came to understand the practical aspects of my profession and learned to effectively use my capacities and skills for achievement of specific professional goals and tasks.

I applied the innovative approaches and tools introduced by ASPIRED for water resources management, to conduct studies for my thesis, particularly, the Geographic Information System (ArcGIS) and the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) analytical method. Working in the ArcGIS environment, I developed the skills and experience of using practical tools, which were later applied to model avalanche-prone areas of  Zangezur Mountain Range and assess the risks of their danger. Thus, the new skills I acquired can be used to conduct thorough analyses, both strategic and economic, and propose sound solutions to existing issues in different sectors. I am sure that this knowledge will help me to be competitive in the labor market as a beginner.

In addition, while working on the ASPIRED Project, I acquired a number of other skills that served as a cornerstone for my current work: the compilation and organization of databases, and the analysis of temporal and spatial datasets within the ArcGIS.”

Since July 2020, right after completing the ASPIRED internship, Inga started a new job as an assistant to an expert at the Community Consolidation and Support Center NGO based in her native town Alaverdi. Together with her colleagues, Inga works on identification and analysis of various issues in the communities of  Lori region of Armenia, raising cases of human rights violations, and providing advice and other support, while applying the knowledge and experience gained under the ASPIRED Project.

At the end of our conversation Inga mentioned: “Apart from all that , I would like to emphasize that during my internship with the ASPIRED Project, I learned to work with a professional team, acquire knowledge, listen to and learn from them, and grow both professionally and personally. I consider this as an important gain: serve as an effective member of the team and be part of an important program.”

Nara Mnatsakanyan

“My final thesis was “Real Estate Transactions in Medieval Armenia,” linked to the prototype of the cadastral system and transactions in Medieval Armenia. Obviously, this was a complex topic that required reliable data, identification of potential sources, and extensive data analysis.

Based on the modeling experience gained during my internship in the ASPIRED Project, I developed a large database for my final thesis. Apart from this, I often applied this practical knowledge to develop and design thematic maps.

The knowledge gained during my internship encouraged me to enroll in a business project and I am hopeful for success.  No doubt, the ASPIRED internship was a great experience for a beginner to make  first steps in professional expertise. It was a great learning opportunity for a GIS analyst.”

At present, Nara is working at the Ijevan Branch of Yerevan State University, teaching information systems analysis using GIS.

“My vision on my career and future are linked to GIS analyses. It is hard to explain, but I love my job and I yearn to improve my skills further in this field.”

IMPROVED LIVELIHOOD IS GAINED THROUGH HARD WORK

Tomato field belonging to Gevorg Sheroyan, a farmer from Pokr Vedi community, who employs 15 people during the season.

Pokr Vedi is a relatively small community in Ararat region, located on the left bank of the Araks River and home to nearly 3,300 people.  Agriculture is the main livelihood for the local population, fruit orchards represent the main source of income.

Proper supply of irrigation water is of utmost importance to ensure secure and stable income, and a decent livelihood for the community, For years, Pokr Vedi has been supplied irrigation water from two sources, but due to the deteriorated irrigation network and significant water losses, farmers were struggling to adequately irrigate their lands. As a result, the community identified the improvement of the irrigation network as a priority.   

In response, USAID’s Advanced Science and Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development (ASPIRED) and Participatory Utilization and Resource Efficiency of Water (PURE Water) projects, along with the “Hayastan” All-Armenian Fund and Artashat Water Users Association, joined together with the Pokr Vedi community to upgrade the local irrigation system.

Gevorg Sheroyan is one of over 400 farmers benefiting from the renovated irrigation system. He was born and raised in Pokr Vedi, a mechanic-pedagogue by profession. He taught mechanics and technologies in the village school for 37 years, sharing his knowledge and experience with school children on the use of agricultural machinery. Gevorg is also an experienced farmer. He first introduced a drip irrigation system in his greenhouse in 2008, to increase yield and improve crop quality. This was his first effort in this technology on a relatively small-scale greenhouse.

In our conversation, Gevorg noted that the ASPIRED Project solved the most important problem the community was facing: huge water losses in the irrigation network. Encouraged by this, in the spring of this year,  Gevorg installed a drip irrigation system on his land plot, 1.6 hectare, with his own investment, so he can produce commercially competitive highquality tomatoes. Compared to his earlier experience of drip irrigation system in a greenhouse, this was a much larger scale investment, applied in an open field.

“The increased water supply and proper pressure provided by the Project improvements to the system, ensured smooth operation of the pump and I was able to successfully operate a drip irrigation system in this field.  This system will allow irrigation of up to 20-30 hectares of land. I therefore am planning to expand the drip irrigation for another 4 hectares next year.”

Gevorg invested approximately USD 4,200 in installing drip irrigation system, including purchase of new filters and pipes.  The ASPIRED Project then helped Gevorg further upscale his irrigation system, which in turn has expanded the economic gains of his farm.  This resulted  in increased yeld by three times, improved quality of crops, and creation of additional jobs for the community.  This increased his yield three times, improved crop quality, and created additional jobs for the community.  

Gevorg Sheroyan’s initiative and experience is a great example of sustainable development in rural communities. Beneficiaries like him recognize the value and importance of innovative technologies introduced by ASPIRED, and in turn use those resources to upscale the project impacts, enhance their businesses, ultimately improving the livelihoods of individuals and the greater community.

At the end of our conversation, Gevorg thanked the American people and the All-Armenian Fund for making this project a reality.  Finally, he added: “The tomato yield is now actually three times more than that of the traditional fields. So my yield was doubled.  If I take out the investment expenses, I actually generated more income. The increased yield is creating additional jobs. At present, I have 15 employees, both men and women, who gather the harvest. The higher the yield, the more people will be involved in collecting the harvest.  After all, improved livelihood is gained through hard work.”

Prior to the ASPIRED intervention, approximately 40% of water running through the system in Pokr Vedi was lost.  As a result of the project, the community now sees annual water savings of about  936,000 m3, and total energy savings of 341,640 kWh during the irrigation season. The annual financial benefit from the energy saving is approximately AMD 13.3 million or USD 27,400. This project is a standing proof that multilateral cooperation, joint efforts and investments benefit hard working farmers and community at large.

First working group meeting

On August 28, USAID ASPRED Project and Ministry of Environment (ME) held the first session of a Working Group (WG) of the ME in Yerevan, to discuss the ASPIRED project preliminary findings on hydrologic and hydrogeologic conditions in the Ararat Valley, and a draft of the Ararat Valley Atlas. Edgar Pirumyan, Acting Head of the Department of Licenses, Permits and Compliances of the ME, chaired the session.  

Working Group meeting launch

Due to COVID 19, the WG meetings were delayed, the interaction was online.  As the first live session, it was a bit special: it was interactive, where all members of this group convened and summarized the works carried out to date.

Established on January 30, 2020 by the order of the Minister of Environment, the WG involves representatives from the ME, including Departments of Licenses, Permits and Compliances; Water Policy;  and Hydrometeorology and Monitoring Center. As well, the WB members include Water Committee of the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure; Institute of Geological Sciences; and Institute of Geophysics and Engineering Seismology after A. Nazarov; USAID-Armenia and ASPIRED Project representatives.

The role of the WG is to ensure effective implementation of tasks and planned results within projects supported by international donor organizations in Armenia’s water sector, such as USAID.

During the session, the ASPIRED team presented the results of calculations of water supply and demand balance of Ararat Valley for 2016, estimated values of groundwater reserves of Ararat Valley groundwater basin, natural groundwater resources and sustainable rate of groundwater use. The team described the methodology and analytical tools applied during the work and highlighted the recommendations of the WG earlier this year.

Presentation on Ararat Valley groundwater basin

ASPIRED also presented the draft Atlas of Ararat Valley: this product was put together in close collaboration with the state agencies and international partner organizations, who provided geospatial data and information on Ararat Valley water resources.    

The WG members then discussed the ASPIRED findings on hydrologic and hydrogeologic conditions in Ararat Valley, gave further advice for refining the Atlas before presenting it to the Government and other stakeholders.

Dr. Hrachya Shahinyan, Institute of Geological Sciences of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, mentioned that the “methodology applied in the ASPIRED work is a traditional approach for mathematical assessment of groundwater resources, that utilizes advanced analytical tools within the ArcGIS environment and groundwater modeling software.”

Discussions underway

On the same note, Nazik Jzmachyan, Chief Specialist of the Department on Licenses, Permits and Compliances continued, by “proposing specific measures to the Government of Armenia for implementation of a new data-driven policy on sustainable management of water resources in Ararat Valley”.

 Edgar Misakyan, Head of Hydrology Center of Hydrometeorology and Monitoring Center of the ME proposed “recommending to the Government outsourcing tasks on filling in data and analytic gaps for supporting decisions on water resources in the Ararat Valley to scientific and research institutions.”

Small group discussions

Gevorg Aloyan, acting Head of Asset Management and Investments Implementation Department of Water Committee “emphasized the importance of regular updates of the modeling tools for Ararat Valley groundwater basin with data and use of tools.” He provided a few recommendations on publishing the Ararat Valley Atlas, which “is a good source of up-to-date data and information consolidated in one publication, with a single geospatial database for Ararat Valley.”

Participants of the session agreed on the next steps: a) finalize the main findings on water resources in the Ararat Valley; b) provide recommendations to the Government of Armenia on sustainable management of groundwater and surface water resources in Ararat Valley – Armenia’s major agricultural zone and livelihood source for the region.

Online opening of the Yeghegnut community water system improvement project

July 30: ASPIRED conducted a virtual opening for the USAID-funded Armavir region Yeghegnut water system improvement project.  The Project was completed through successful collaboration of the USAID Advanced Science and Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development Project (ASPIRED), the PURE-Water Projects, and in-kind contribution  by Yeghegnut community.  The opening was attended by the USAID Mission Director Deborah Grieser, Armavir region Governor Hambardzum Matevosyan, acting deputy Mayor of Yeghegnut Ashot Khurshudyan, implementing and partner organizations, guests.

During the event a video was aired highlighting the water system network improvement project outcomes.

The Project implementation resulted in 24-hour chlorinated water supply for all households in the community. The Project rehabilitated the water network and built a new pumping and chlorination stations. The old and deteriorated network was replaced with the new, polyethylene pipes, while water meters were installed in all houses.  The project introduced a new water service management software for efficient management of water bills and consumption by the residents. billing and metering software for efficient management of the water bills and consumption of users.

This project is not limited to supplying water to the community: due to the new system, there are significant water and energy savings – 308,000 m3 of water; and 118 MWh of energy annually.

In his opening remarks, the Armavir region Governor highlighted the hand-over of the improved water network to the community for future oversight and maintenance. “Everything is possible when you select proper partners, organize work efficiently and care for the work”.

Another important outcome of the project is that two local residents will have jobs: having been trained within the project, they will oversee and ensure uninterrupted operation of the system.

“I congratulate the members of Yeghegnut community, because this is a momentous occasion and I am proud and happy to be celebrating with you, even though it is virtually.  Yeghegnut was deprived of safe and reliable drinking water for over a couple of decades, 70% of community water had been lost due to deterioration of the pipes.  Thank you for the support the community extended to the ASPIRED  and PURE Water projects, to realize the dream of over 2200 residents of the community – to have safe and clean water 24 hour a day, 7 days a week”, mentioned USAID Armenia Mission Director Deborah Grieser in the opening remarks.

Water Is Life: Clean Water for Yeghegnut Community

Razmik Mkrtchyan, acting Mayor of Yeghegnut community: “As a result of water system improvement earlier this year, all 482 households of the village are provided with 24-hour clean potable water, they pay for water they consume. Running water for the entire day ensures good protection from COVID 19 pandemic.”

The Project rehabilitated the water network: a new pumping and chlorination station with a new water line were built. The project provides safe and chlorinated drinking water: safe, because for many years people used rusty, muddy and unsafe water running from taps.

In the past 20-plus years, drinking water was a priority need and a dream for the community: today it is a reality! The entire community, approximately 2200 residents benefit from the project.

“Walk throughout the village: every street and remote house has clean water. This is critical necessity for us, for women particularly, to ensure proper hygiene and sanitation and healthy livelihood”, Dzyunik Khurshudyan, community resident.

This project is not limited to supplying water to the community: due to the new system, there are significant water and energy savings – 308,000 m3 of water; and 118 MWh of energy annually. Water meters have been installed in all households, establishing a new culture of water consumption: more responsible and caring attitude towards water use.

Another important outcome of the project is that at least two local people will have jobs: having been trained within the project, they will oversee and ensure uninterrupted operation of the system including pumping and chlorinating stations.

The renovation of Yeghegnut drinking water system was completed through successful collaboration of the USAID Advanced Science and Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development Project (ASPIRED), the PURE-Water Projects, and in-kind contribution by Yeghegnut community. This is how joint efforts and successful partnership make a difference and positive impact on community life.

The virtual opening of the Yeghegnut project was organized on July 30, 3 pm, attended by the USAID Mission Director, Armavir region Governor, Yeghegnut administration, implementing and partner organizations, guests.

ASPIRED Continues Developing the Groundwater Flow Model

On Wednesday, April 15, the ASPIRED team had an online session with Todd Wood for presenting and discussing the simplified groundwater flow model for the Ararat Valley.  Mr. Wood is the expert of the US-based Aquaveo Company who consults the ASPIRED team on the groundwater modeling work.

The ASPIRED team presented the recent version of the groundwater flow model after the adjustments have been made in the parameters of various attributes of the model following Mr. Wood’s recommendations made earlier.  The ASPIRED team and the AQUAVEO expert diagnosed the model simulation results to identify the needs for further adjustments.

As a result, ASPIRED will generate a fully calibrated groundwater flow model for the Ararat Valley. The model can be used to determine the impact of the groundwater abstraction on the state of the aquifers. 

‼️ Announcement

The USAID-funded Advanced Science and Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development (ASPIRED) Project intends to implement a project on permanent sealing of an artesian well in the Ararat Valley. At this stage, the ASPIRED Project is planning to contract out feasibility and design works.

All design companies, which have specialists on board with the knowledge and experience in projects on sealing of damaged artesian wells and are interested in participating in the call for proposals soon to be announced by the ASPIRED Project, are invited to send the following information about their company – name, contact details, names of contact persons – to the ASPIRED Project via the following e-mail mkoshkaryan@engl.com by April 2️3️.

Irrigation Network Installation in Pokr Vedi

The ASPIRED Project completed installation of the main section of the irrigation pipeline in Armenian Pokr Vedi community located in Ararat region and proceeded to the installation of the water outlets.

The ASPIRED Partners for this project are Hayastan All-Armenian Fund and Artashat Water User Association. The concept paper was developed in collaboration with the USAID’s PURE Water Project.