Agriculture is one of the most important branches of Armenia’s economy, with more than 35% of the population involved in. Farmers and agricultural workers face greatest challenge regarding occupational safety and health as most of them work in various small farms and enterprises. Rapid increase of greenhouse production especially in Ararat region requires particular attention to the OSH issues. Agricultural chemicals, pesticides are widely used in Armenia. Widespread under-reporting of the occupational health and safety hazards faced by agricultural workers results in the lack of proper response and appropriate preventive measures. Most farmers do not fully understand health issues associated with hazardous pesticide use and pollution of environment. Awareness on human health, safety, environmental effects and risks associated with more commonly-used pesticides is particularly critical in promoting occupational health and safety in greenhouses, where working conditions are characterized by a combination of intensive physical labor with unfavorable microclimatic conditions, air pollution of the working area with dust and pesticides, agrochemicals. Armenia is not a party of the ILO Safety and Health in Agriculture Convention. Joining the Convention will provide for better protection of the rights of agricultural workers, to prevent occupational diseases in rural areas, contribute to improve national policy.

Kotayk province is one of the leading agricultural regions. According to the latest (2016) “Social Snapshot and Poverty in Armenia”1 report by the National Statistical Service, poverty rate in Kotayk – 37.2. According to the 2016 official census, Kotayk has a population of 254,397 (123,524 men and 130,873 women), forming around 8.4% of the entire population of Armenia. The urban population is 137,481 (54%) and the rural is 116,916 (46%). The target community- Goht has 2070 dwellers, 612- households, There are 2 big greenhouse companies” Ecotomat” and “Armenian Yield” The territory of greenhouses is 19 ha. The administration of the province will benefit from awareness-raising activities explaining the health and environmental hazards of pesticides. The local farmers, particularly women farmers will benefit from information about the safe agroecological alternatives to hazardous pesticides.

Main objectives

  • Raise awareness of decision-makers and agricultural workers on occupational health and safety in greenhouses
  • Contribute to the reduction of occupational risks in agriculture for greenhouse workers and employers, using action-oriented training approach

Activities

  • Awareness raising campaign on occupational health and safety (information materials and meetings, TV presentations) in Ararat region and Yerevan city

AWHHE created a booklet, which briefly presents the working conditions (microclimatic conditions, working position, and use of chemicals) in the greenhouses, and offers some measures to improve them.

http://awhhe.am/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Greenhouse-booklet.pdf

Meetings were organized with representatives of different communities from 3 regions. Initially, the meetings were planned to be held in Ararat (Berkanush community) and Kotayk (Goght, Kaghsi, Solak, Abovyan communities) regions, but due to great interest, meetings were held in Armavir (Lusagyugh community) region too, which is also located in the Ararat valley. During the meetings the rules of proper maintenance of working conditions in the greenhouse were presented and the booklets were distributed.

The electronic version of the booklet was made available via Facebook and viber platforms by various organizations such as Armenian Aarhus Centers, “Organic Armenia” Agricultural Association NGO  and schools from different communities (Solak, Goght communities from Kotayk region, Baghramyan, Taperakan, Ditak, Aygavan, Burastan, Berkanush, Khachpar, Hayanist communities from Ararat region, Lusagyugh, Jrarat, Apaga, Margara communities from Armavir region, Bagravan, Dzithankov communities from Shirak region, Vardenut community from Aragatsotn region, Svarants community from Syunik region). The booklet was also shared by Haykush Aslanyan, who is a journalist at Armenian Public TV, and Araksya Gevorgyan (the coordinator at Gyumri Aarhus Centre), who shared it in Facebook community groups, such as “Teachers of biology”, “Environment”, “Biosophia NGO”, “Vanand NGO”, “Third Nature NGO” etc. In total the booklet was shared to 26 696 people. 

The Public TV of Armenia channel (national coverage) aired a story on March 20, at 17:00, during the news program, which opened for us a possibility to have a bigger audience and raise awareness among many people. The video can be viewed via the following link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTk7CmWriUo (from 13:08 to 17:39).

  • Participation in International webinars on HHPs
  1. “Raising awareness of the risks of exposure to chemicals” by IPEN on 28th of January, 2021
  2. “Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) in EECCA Countries: Threats to Health and Alternatives” by Eco-Accord NGO from Russia, IPEN Hub for EECCA region, on 15th of March, 2021

During this webinar, our organization presented the analysis of dangerous pesticides in Armenia, in particular, what pesticides are imported, amount, and the name they are imported under, etc. AWHHE also presented the advocacy efforts (appeal letter) and work done under the present project.

  • An appeal from the civil society groups to the decision-makers calling for joining the ILO Safety and Health in Agriculture Convention

A letter of appeal was prepared urging the Armenian Government to join the Convention. A number of experts (Tamara Hakobyan, Srbuhi Harutyunyan (expert on ecosafety) and organizations (“Shogher Union” Social-Educational NGO, “Rural Sustainable Development” Agricultural Foundation, Lukashin Agricultural Association, Environmental Law Resource Centre, “Angel” Youth NGO, “Center for Public Informativity and Monitoring” NGO, “For Sustainable Human Development” NGO, Yerevan Aarhus Centre, “Organic Armenia” Agricultural Association NGO) joined the appeal by signing the letter, which was sent the Ministries of Health, Economy, Labor and Social Affairs.

  • The capacity building for greenhouse workers and employers using action-oriented training approach

There are 2 large production greenhouses in Goght (Kotayk region) community: “Armenian Yield” and “Ecotomat”. The employees of those greenhouses are mostly residents of Goght community, so it was decided to hold the seminar in that community. As Covid 19 did not allow to organize the seminar face-to-face, it was conducted through the zoom platform, trying to provide as much practical knowledge as possible to the audience.

  • Training on human health, safety and environmental effects and risks associated with more commonly-used pesticides

Seminars on maintaining proper working conditions in greenhouses and the correct use of pesticides were held in Solak and Abovyan communities.

During the trainings the ways of penetration of pesticides into the human body, the ways of protection against it, the rules of selection, transportation and storage of pesticides were presented to the audience.

  • Developing the project webpage sharing the project results and related information.

During the project implementation, a project page was created on our website, where the information was regularly updated.

http://awhhe.am/2020-2021-ggf-maintaining-the-health-and-proper-working-conditions-of-greenhouse-workers/

Photos from the project implementation