Tufenkian Foundation Programs: Arajamugh village, housing support to re-settlers, economic development
“A tree is a tree. But somehow, a tree growing in a liberated village near Artsakh’s border is more important. It has more meaning.”
Hrant Aghajanyan has been involved in Tufenkian Foundation’s efforts in several ways. He is one of the residents of the Arajamugh, a border village founded by TF, lives in a house built by the Foundation and works in a pomegranate orchard planted and overseen by the Foundation.
Originally from Yeghegnadzor, 62-year-old Hrant has been living in the Arajamugh village for the past 6 years. Like most re-settlers, Hrant’s family came to Artsakh looking for an opportunity for a better life. And, after several years of hardship and many relocations, they permanently settled in this border village after they were given a home by the Tufenkian Foundation.
Hrant first heard about the resettlement program run by the Artsakh government about 10 years ago. He was immediately attracted to the idea of moving to Artsakh, and he had thought about it even before hearing about the program. Life in Yeghegnadzor hadn’t been easy or comfortable, and the family wanted to try their luck someplace else.
Although he personally had a deep desire to move to Artsakh, at first Hrant was unsure whether this would be the best decision for his son’s young family, considering the proximity to the border. But, as he kept hearing about people who had come to Artsakh and stayed here, the wish to move here turned into a firm decision.
“I thought my life would have more meaning here, in Artsakh. Back there, in Yeghegnadzor, we were just residents, but living here means that our native lands don’t get abandoned. Having this sense of purpose becomes more important the older you get.”
Hrant moved to Arajamugh together with his whole family - his wife, son, daughter in law and grandson. His second grandson was born here in Arajamugh, and the 6 of them all live together. For the first several years after moving to Artsakh, Hrant lived and worked in different towns and villages, from Hadrut to Shushi, supporting himself and the family with seasonal agricultural work. These were challenging years, but Hrant was ready to overcome them. “Growing up in a village, in a poor family, spending my life working in the fields, I was never afraid of challenges. Life had never been trouble-free for me. But here in Artsakh, I felt that I could find happiness and stability”.
In 2012, Hrant was given a home in the Arajamugh village, one of the modern houses built by the Tufenkian Foundation. This put an end to all the tiring relocations and signaled the start of a stable life. “When we learnt that we would have a house of our own, we knew all our struggles had been worth it. We finally felt at home in Artsakh”.
A little more than a year ago, Hrant as hired to take responsibility for the pomegranate orchard in Arajamugh planted by the Tufenkian Foundation in 2004, when the village was first founded.
This is one of the very few permanent jobs Hrant has had in his life. This stability has been a great change for him and his family. “This is one of the big differences between my life in Yeghegnadzor and the way I live in Artsakh. I feel so much more secure here”.
Back in Yeghegnadzor, Hrant mostly earned his living with seasonal agricultural work in different villages, mostly working in apricot and peach orchards. “That was the life for most villagers, and it was extremely tiring”, said Hrant. “Now, instead of worrying about where my next income is coming from, I just worry about the weather. I know I’m doing my best in the orchard, and as long as the weather doesn’t get in the way, we should have a good crop”.
Just several days before this interview, severe hail hit Arajamugh and damaged many of the trees, and even uprooted several of them. But Hrant wasn’t discouraged. “A little hail is not the end of the world. As someone who has spent his entire life working on the land, you get used to surprises like this”.
“As the father of a serviceman [his son serves in the nearby army base], the other thing I worry about is the situation on the border. If that gets resolved, and if there is real peace, I will be entirely happy.” Hrant does everything in the orchard – planting, watering, pruning, weeding, collecting the crop, etc., with occasional help from his wife and daughter in law. “My older grandson also comes here sometimes to help his grandpa, but that mostly means more work for me (laughs)”.
Like most of their neighbors, Hrant’s family cultivates the small land adjacent to their home. They have one of the most prolific yards in the village and grow a variety of crops, from different kinds of melons to corn and sunflower. They also have a cow.
Life in Arajamugh is interesting for Hrant, because he has his work and his family and his two small grandchildren, and because all the people living here are so different from one another, each with a unique story of how and why they ended up here. Socializing with other villagers, being good neighbors and working on the land is what village life is all about for Hrant, and Arajamugh is a great place for all that.
“The only thing I wish for Arajamugh is more residents. I want more families to come here, to take these empty lands and turn them into fields, orchards… It pains me to see so many idle lands here that could provide for so many families.”
The orchard in Arajamugh, where Hrant works, is a part of our ongoing economic development efforts. You can contribute to our work and help us create more livelihood opportunities for the people of Artsakh by making a small donation here.
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