Newswise — ITHACA, N.Y. – Generations of Armenian apricot growers have relied on snowmelt from the Caucasus mountains to irrigate their small family orchards that dot the country’s fertile valleys. But now, as climate change disrupts weather patterns and the snowpack retreats, farmer livelihoods are becoming imperiled at an unprecedented rate.

“Armenia is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change,” said Allison M. Chatrchyan, senior research associate in the Department of Global Development at Cornell University. “Temperatures there are rising more than the global average, drought is becoming more widespread and freeze risk is intensifying. Climate change is hitting farmers hard, and it’s affecting rural societies in untold ways.”

Armenian farmers face enormous challenges adapting to changing conditions and are at high risk of losing their livelihoods, said Keelin Kelly, who is conducting her undergraduate social science honors thesis research in Armenia with Chatrchyan.

“We talked to farmers who told us that if water scarcity continued to grow, they would no longer be able to farm,” Kelly said. “Farmer involvement and knowledge in climate change decision-making is crucial to ensuring economic livelihoods not just in Armenia, but in communities and countries around the world.” 

During field work this January, Kelly conducted five focus groups in Armenia to ask farmers about their experiences with climate change and what assistance they needed. The effort was multiplied by a collaboration with Artak Khachatryan, an Armenian agricultural expert studying at Cornell this year as a Hubert H. Humphrey program fellow.

Khachatryan is director of agricultural technology input and service for the Center for Agribusiness and Rural Development (CARD), an Armenian nongovernmental organization dedicated to sustainable livelihoods for rural populations. He is developing leadership and technical skills during his yearlong fellowship at Cornell.

“Armenia faces many challenges,” said Khachatryan, who is learning how to incorporate advanced climate-smart practices, such as no-till farming and attention to soil health, into farm management. “It has been incredible to take part in this advanced research project that will help shape the future of agriculture in my country.”

For additional information, see this Cornell Chronicle story.

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