ONEArmenia, in partnership with Sahman NGO, has launched a new program to support micro and small businesses in communities located on Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan, The Armenian Weekly reports.
The LeverEdge Program will give budding entrepreneurs in the northeast Tavush province the resources and tools they need to create a new business or expand existing ones, beginning now until 2020. To ensure each business achieves sustained profitability, the program will also provide business management training and support to all program participants.
Despite the 1994 ceasefire, the conflict with Azerbaijan has not quite ended for border communities in Tavush. Agriculture and animal husbandry are the main sources of income for many in Tavush, but due to the risk of sniper fire from across the border, arable land is left unused, contributing to unemployment and poverty.
To support their families, many seek jobs elsewhere, and the subsequent depopulation of these border communities creates a security threat not just for Tavush, but for the entire country. ONEArmenia has traveled to Tavush many times for previous projects with Sahman NGO, and has found that despite the difficulty of life on the border, the people there do not want to leave their homes.
“The LeverEdge Program is a real game-changer for Tavush. We’re not just giving people the opportunity to sustain themselves by creating jobs. Our aim is to change people’s lives and strengthen communities on the border,” says George Tabakyan, president and co-founder of Sahman NGO. “Despite the ceasefire, people in Tavush’s border communities are still defending the country. They have to deal with landmines, snipers, and other dangers that we don’t have to deal with. We owe them our support.”
The LeverEdge Program will catalyze job creation on the border, and fill the gap that traditional financing has been unable to close in Armenia’s most vulnerable communities. To participate in the program, families apply with a business idea based on skills and resources they already have. Instead of providing seed capital in the form of cash, Sahman NGO procures the physical equipment and tools each business needs to get started. From there, applicants start or scale their businesses, and contribute to the development of their communities.
As businesses grow, they are carefully monitored, and the impact created by the program is measured using ONEArmenia’s impact measurement tool. The first and current pool of LeverEdge is supporting 23 businesses in the villages of Sevqar, Nerqin Tsaghkavan, and Kirants. The businesses are as diverse as the needs and abilities of the people of Tavush, and include honey and dairy farms, an auto shop, a bakery, beauty salons, and many others.