Armenia Technology Group Displacing Hunger with Hope
02/07/2007 (KFSN) -- A Fresno based organization is responsible for replacing hunger and despair with hope. Their efforts may have touched as many as $1M lives in Armenia.
That's more than 2,7000 tons of wheat grain being unloaded. From the heartland of America, to the middle of a frigid rail yard in Armenia.
A Fresno-based non-profit organization, the Armenian Technology Group, or ATG, is responsible for this shipment of surplus US wheat.
Der Simonian says, "The whole intent is to definitely put bread on the table."
Der Simonian is the Executive Director of the Armenian Technology Group. Fresno native, the late Art Hazarabedian, founded ATG seventeen years ago. His goal, guiding the Armenian people to Food and Agricultural self-sufficiency. That's not as easy as it sounds.
Der Simonian says, "In this region you see here -- is mainly your food basket of Armenia."
But the basket was nearly empty by the late 1980's. War, earthquakes, and the collapse of the Soviet Union destroyed most Armenian farm land. A short growing season in high altitude and rocky terrain didn't help.
"Now, all of sudden .. here's a country of almost four million people with nothing to eat, " says Der Simonian.
Hunger and unemployment spread across the country.
The Fresno group stepped in to help, but not with hand outs. First, they helped bring life back to the barren fields. Then, ATG taught Armenian farmers ag skills they could use to make a living -- and pass on.
Der Simonian says, "The idea was to empower them to feed their own families."
ATG showed them how to become self reliant through several projects, from growing American wheat seed to resurrecting the Armenian wine industry using thousands of plants from Visalia.
Bernard Guekguezian of Pilgrim Armenian Church says, "This system created a lot of responsible people toward their own."
Those results have this Fresno minister and his congregation putting their financial backing and blessing behind the ATG projects in Armenia. Guekguezian says, "We had nothing and God blessed us here and therefore we have to do our share for our people."
On a bike trip last summer through Armenia, ATG members witnessed their accomplishments in the fields, businesses, and homes.A few of the hundreds of thousands of people they helped shared something special with them. They ate bread made from flour milled from the wheat grain and drank wine from new vineyards full of fruit.
Grants, a bike-a-thon, and donations from individuals and private foundations fund the efforts of the Armenian Technology Group.
Their next projects in Armenia, include establishing a diagnostic lab for infectious disease and building a cold storage packing facility, like you'd find here in the Valley.
You can find out more by visiting their website: atgusa.org
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