The small, landlocked Republic of Armenia in southwest Asia suffered a devastating recession in the global financial crisis of 2008. Poverty – more prevalent in towns than in rural areas – now affects one third of the population. In some parts of the country, child poverty rates are as high as 50 percent. Overall, 19.4 percent of children are stunted (have low height for their age), but in some areas stunting peaks at 37 percent.
Armenia is a food deficit country, which makes it dependent on imports and vulnerable to price fluctuations. Small farm sizes and water scarcity limit agricultural production, and drought frequently decimates crops and livestock. Food insecurity is further aggravated by other natural hazards such as floods, extreme temperatures and earthquakes, and by conflict with Azerbaijan.
The energy crisis caused by this conflict led to mass felling of trees for fuel. This resulted in deforestation and soil erosion, which have added further challenges to agricultural production. A change in rainfall patterns brought about by climate change threatens to exacerbate existing water scarcity.
WFP has been working in Armenia since 1993, initially helping refugees and now running a school meals programme to help improve nutrition and boost school attendance. This is helping to counter the effects of a sharp drop in family expenditure on children’s education and an increasing school dropout rate.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Armenia
Since September 2015, the programme has provided meals to 81,500 primary school children, and distributed take-home entitlements to 1,700 kitchen helpers involved in the daily preparation of school meals. Although the programme has been partially handed over to the Government of Armenia, WFP continues to manage it in all but three provinces and provides basic kitchen equipment and other capacity-building resources.
Agriculture and market support
WFP works in partnership with the European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development to purchase locally-grown buckwheat for the school meals programme. This helps to provide a sustainable market, adding to the existing market support activities which currently involve buying fruit bars manufactured by an Armenian company from dried fruit produced in the country.