The Canopy Project

Armenia Changes the World, One Sapling At a Time

Armenia is an ancient country which lies just beneath the sprawling Caucasus Mountains, celebrated for its scenery, its wonderful hospitality, its deep Christian roots and its biodiversity. Yet, over time, the country’s bioresources have been gradually depleted, and it was named as one of Conservation International’s 25 most endangered regions. Armenia is used to dealing with crises, and, in the midst of this one, many groups of citizens stepped up to start restoring their country’s environment. These efforts have been largely led by the impressive work of Armenia Tree Project. 

Armenia Tree Project (ATP) was founded in 1994 by Carolyn Mugar, who witnessed firsthand many families burning trees out of an urgent need to heat their homes. The organization began its efforts by holding tree plantings and establishing tree nurseries in the refugee villages of Karin and Kachpar.  A staggering 8 million trees have been planted by the organization and their tree nursery; communities since its founding. 

The choice to begin nurseries in these villages highlights the continued effort by Armenia Tree Project to help increase job opportunities and stimulate the economy in a country, which has faced historical, political and economic turmoil, dating all the way back to WW1 through to the modern 2018 Velvet Revolution and the 2020 pandemic. Yet in 2023 alone, 470 job opportunities were created by ATP across ten villages, further emphasizing the inextricable link between the environment, the economy and social change. It’s truly an organic movement that has inspired local communities to be a part of the solution, generating a sense of pride in making a real difference while also creating jobs in the process.

Along with tree planting efforts, ATP has continued to reach out to the broader community through mobilizing a new generation. In 2004, ATP created an environmental curriculum for programs that were integrated into schools and printed in manuals throughout the country. In 2023 alone, the program reached over 11,000 students at 198 institutions, further amplifying the program and the future of environmental change.

The outreach into the community did not stop in the classroom. ATP’s Backyard Nursery Program equips families with the resources and education needed to grow seedlings on their own land. The families are able to earn extra income through this program, as Armenia Tree Project buys back the trees when they are large enough to be replanted. 

Following military offensives in Artsakh in 2023, ATP extended its social aid programs to help displaced families forced to flee due to the invasion. Their Resilient Roots initiative is currently providing need-based aid to 310 individuals, including essentials, such as food and clothing, along with long-term tools on how to start small businesses and achieve economic security. To further restore agency to these families and help with sustainable food sourcing, ATP hopes to rebuild greenhouses in the backyards of these families’ new homes. 

The intentionality of ATP in social and environmental aid for Armenia has inspired other movements across the country. The government has committed to a goal of doubling its tree coverage by 2050, and other organizations such as Maqoor have sprung up in the region.

Maqoor, was started in 2023 by 19-year-old Hrachya Sahakyan, and has already mobilized 100 countries in its infancy. In order to further expand its efforts and amplify its impact, Maqoor has partnered with EARTHDAY.ORG to organize over 10 cleanups on April 20 in celebration of the 5 year anniversary of The Great Global Cleanup.

In alignment with the efforts of Armenia Tree Project, EARTHDAY.ORG’s The Canopy Project has worked to plant tens of millions of trees on every continent besides Antarctica by working with global partners in reforestation. By taking into account biodiversity and building community relationships, The Canopy Project aims to create long term systems of reforestation that can be continued and stewarded by community members.

With staggering statistics such as a global rate of deforestation of nearly 25 million acres of land per year, it is clear that there is no more urgent time to act than now. Your world needs you. To get involved, JOIN THE MOVEMENT.  Plant trees!