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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER)
Cycle 4 (2015 Deadline)

Sustainable Fisheries for Enhanced Water Resources in Armenia (SFEWRA)

PI: Vardan Urutyan (, International Center for Agribusiness Research and Education (ICARE)
U.S. Partner: Stephen Schoenholtz, Virginia Water Resources Research Center
Project Dates: October 2015 - September 2018

4-230 Field Observations 2
4-230 Field Measurements
4-230 Field Observations
The project team made a series of field measurements and observations at the beginning of the project (photos courtesy of Dr. Urutyan).
Project Overview

This project will address the issues of depleting artesian water resources in the Ararat Valley. An increasing numbers of fish farms in the valley have substantially decreased the level of artesian water in the area. Although profitable in current market conditions, these fish farms operate primarily using inefficient water technologies. The first step in the project will be to analyze targeted fish farms in the Ararat Valley to determine the current production models being used and recommend appropriate best practices for water-efficient aquaculture. The researchers will also study the potential for improving discharge water distribution efficiency and discharge water quality for targeted fish farms to agricultural plots in the Ararat Valley. After analyzing the current regulatory framework, the team will then produce recommendations for improved policy for water usage in fish farm production systems and for better management of discharge water. Throughout the process, they will engage key stakeholders to ensure their input is included in the study and to inform them of recommended policies and actions. The U.S. Government-supported partner will contribute by providing expertise about best international practices of operating fish farms and water usage in fish farms.

The key development impacts of the SFEWRA project lie in ensuring more inclusive and sustainable economic growth by fostering sustainable fisheries that use water more efficiently. The project will also build and strengthen the research capacity of ICARE and the various stakeholders involved, establish long-term research relationships, build multidisciplinary team and individual capacity, and enable the collaborators to become more effective partners in research and development related to water. Data-driven decisions, actions, and results are key to providing water for multiple and competing users. The water data collected will be the basis for an Armenian Water Resources Research Center as the collaboration continues beyond the timeline of this project. Research finding and the recommendations will be integrated into the education component of ICARE as short-term training courses or elective courses for undergraduate or graduate level students.

Summary of Recent Activities

On September 22, 2017, this project team held a training activity for 16 project fish farmers and other interested parties. Among the trainers were the director of the Office of International Research, Education, and Development (OIRED) at Virginia Tech and the director of the InnovATE/Armenia project. The activity consisted of two parts: a visit to the unique aquaponics greenhouse of the NGO Green Age Aquaponics (located in Apaga village, Armavir marz), which specializes in growing organic greens, and a visit to the CARD Foundation’s Agricultural and Veterinary Service Center (located in Darakert village, Armavir marz), where participants were introduced to Best Management Practices of Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) as a water-efficient farming practice. During the training, a representative a local solar panel manufacturer was also invited to introduce the participants to alternative sources of energy, a subject of great interest among fish farmers.

The team’s Armenian-language manuscript entitled “How to efficiently utilize water resources in the Ararat artesian basin while simultaneously increasing fish production volumes” has already been accepted for publication by the Bulletin of the National University of Architecture and Construction of Armenia. An English-language manuscript entitled “Groundwater use and efficiency of small- and medium-sized aquaculture farms in the Ararat Valley, Armenia” has been accepted for publication by the Elsevier journal Groundwater for Sustainable Development, and a second paper in English, entitled “Feasibility analysis of basil and lettuce production in aquaponics system in terms of efficient water use,” has been accepted by the Bulletin of the Armenian National Agrarian University. Development of other manuscripts is under consideration.

During the third quarter of 2017, three junior-year bachelor’s students from the Agribusiness Teaching Center continued their internships at ICARE working with SFEWRA team members. They have been involved in the development of water-efficient models and business plans for project fisheries. Also during this reporting period, the project team conducted 22 days of field visits, during which the researchers provided consultations to fish farmers about efficient water usage. They also took outlet water samples from all 15 fisheries and analyzed the water quality. On the outreach and dissemination side, the PEER project coordinator and researchers have met recently with representatives of the World Bank/International Finance Corporation, the Delegation of the European Union to Armenia, the USAID Mission in Yerevan, and representatives of the USAID-supported NGO the URBAN Foundation for Sustainable Development and its new Participatory Utilization and Resource Efficiency of Water (PURE Water) project. The ICARE staff provided information about SFEWRA and discussed potential opportunities for collaboration and uptake of their findings.

As the project moves into its third year in late 2017, the project team will focus on developing customized water-efficient fish farming models for 11 selected fisheries (models have already been completed for the other 4 farms). This activity will include financial analysis of the enterprise and development of individualized business plans for each of the targeted fish farms. The business plans will include cost-benefit analysis of implementing more water-efficient production systems and promoting business competitiveness. Results from the ongoing analysis of outlet water from the participating fisheries will also be incorporated into the models and into new research papers. SFEWRA team members will also work to analyze the current regulatory framework for water resources use by fish farms in the Ararat Valley, after which they will provide their recommendations to the Armenian Ministry of Environmental Protection. Thanks to funding from a PEER Evidence to Action supplement awarded to this project on a competitive basis in the summer of 2017, the researchers will also be remodeling one of the selected fish farms as a demonstration project to highlight the impacts of their recommended water-use model and business plan.

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