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The story of a strong woman: how a biology teacher from Armenia succeeded in agribusiness

After the end of the working day at school, 57-year-old Arev Nersisyan puts on rubber boots and enters a greenhouse located in the courtyard of her house: “For me, the highest pleasure is contact with the earth. I just learned to wear gloves, I always wanted to touch the ground with my hands“.

Her house is located on the outskirts of Berd, in the part where the forest comes to the town. A biologist by training, Arev works as a head teacher at school No. 3 of Berd town of Tavush Marz . She admits that the work on the ground after a day at school is a completely different world for her: “When I saw big greenhouses on TV, I dreamed and asked myself: “I wonder if someday I will have this?” There was an opportunity, and I tried to participate in the program, and my project won”.

In 2014, under the project “Overcoming Poverty in Tavush Marz” of the Armenian Relief Fund, a program was implemented to promote the construction of greenhouse farms. Within its framework, the women of the region presented their business projects. Arev Nersisyan received a grant of 1.6 million AMD, 600 thousand of which is a three-year loan.

The biology teacher has been growing tomatoes in the greenhouse (150 sq. m.) for 3 years. In Berd everyone knows that the most delicious tomatoes can be bought in the greenhouse of Arev Nersisyan. She is planning to completely abandon the chemicals and make her products 100% organic.

Arev comes into the greenhouse and shows tobacco growing next to tomatoes. According to her, tobacco helps fight pests and diseases: “During the Soviet era, 2-3 percent of all tobacco of the USSR were grown in the Tavush region. At that time, cucumbers and tomatoes were cultivated between the tobacco beds. They were not sprayed at all - tobacco produces special substances that protect vegetables from pests”.

Arev admits: one of the reasons why she established a greenhouse is the desire to provide herself with work after retirement: “In Armenia, retirement is stressful for many people. I created a workplace by myself, for myself. Life does not end after 63 years”.

There are raspberry bushes opposite the greenhouse on the territory of 150 square meters. This is the result of the implementation of the business project in cooperation with the NonGovernmental Organization “Green Lane Agricultural Assistance” in 2013: “I thought to set a plant that would be physically easier to take care of, and chose raspberries. If the plants are timely treated in time, in the season you can only walk and pick berries”.

After retirement, Arev is thinking about opening a service for selling vegetables directly from the greenhouse. She wants to name her new project “The Colorful Basket”. Using the Internet, social networks to organize sales, the entrepreneurial biologist intends to offer his customers to choose vegetables that will be collected in a wicker basket directly from the bed.

The ideas of the head teacher do not end there. In another Green Lane project Arev plans to build a drying room and produce organic dried fruits.

Her most cherished dream is to establish a hostel in her new private house. She is confdent that the demand is there. Tourists come to the region, despite its proximity to the border with Azerbaijan, which is in a state of frozen military conflict with Armenia: “We have been hosting a festival of honey and berries for five years, and quite a lot of tourists have come. People are not afraid, they have come and will come”.

Like many others, Arev could long ago leave the little Berd in search of a better life, but the teacher-business woman says that she feels good only on this land, and she is very concerned that people are leaving Armenia: “I do not complain about life, the situation in the country, and when someone next to me starts complaining, I show my dirty boots, my hands ...I think that everything depends on the person, and if you want to create something, you need to work, think, embody your thoughts. Such land, such water, such air exists nowhere else in the world”.

Based on the materials of