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How foraging for fruit is changing lives in Georgia
Written by , Saturday, 8 Mar, 2014 – 9:17 | No Comment

Georgia is almost entirely dependent on agricultural imports and reliant on an inefficient soviet farming system. But with Oxfam’s support things are starting to change.  To mark international women’s day, Caroline Berger, Oxfam’s media officer, travelled to Georgia to find out how foraging for fruit is changing the lives of women and opening up new trade opportunities for the country.

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The women left behind in Armenia
Written by , Wednesday, 29 Jan, 2014 – 11:14 | No Comment

Kristine Arakelyn lifts her son Gevork outside their home. Kristine is taking part in Oxfam's agricultural cooperative scheme which is helping to ease migration in rural villages. Photograph by Emily Maccines/Oxfam.

Editor’s Note: Oxfam’s Armine Gevorgyan blogs from inside Armenia, where many young men are migrating abroad in search of employment and new opportunities, leaving their wives and daughters behind. Almost a third of homes in Armenia are now entirely led by women.

Here in the rural village of Khor Virap in Southern Armenia, women sit around gossiping about the man who left for Russia, found a mistress and left his wife. Sveta, a mother of one, says, “I wonder what happened to that poor woman and her four children.” This is a fear shared by many women left behind but for Sveta and others like her there is little choice.

“If the men of the village don’t leave for migrant work, then they will simply be condemned to starve. In order to work on the land, they need investments and money.”

In Khor Virap, women’s reign is dominant in the village for almost nine months of the year while the men are in Russia. Work is hard to find and life is extremely tough. Sveta explains,

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Creating plum jobs in Armenia
Written by , Tuesday, 3 Dec, 2013 – 14:15 | No Comment

Photograph courtesy of Oxfam.

Editor’s note: Oxfam’s Annemarie Papatheofilou has just returned from Armenia where she met a group of feisty women who, with Oxfam’s support, are building a business from the ground up, and who won’t stop until their home-grown fruit jam is a household name.

The first thing I notice about Emma is her black-stained fingers. She is shaking my hand with an enthusiastic vice-like grip, and the colour is hard to miss.

I have travelled just over 200km from Yeravan, Armenia’s capital, to Ayrum, a tiny town near the Georgian border, and I’m here to visit the newly-formed Lchkadzor Co-op.

Emma is one of the first members of the co-op I meet and my curiosity gets the better of me, so I ask about her hands. She explains that day after day spent picking blackberries, plums, rosehips and – the worst culprit -walnuts, has left every fruit picker and farmer here with a permanent stain on their skin.

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What connects Austria and Kyrgyzstan?
Written by , Tuesday, 16 Apr, 2013 – 20:14 | No Comment

Editor’s note: This story was written by Aigerim Mamyrova

Although there was signed a memorandum of agreement between the company «Askin & Co GmbH and the Eye Microsurgery Hospital of Almazbek Ismankulov, but the cooperation has been existing for 15 years .

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Another letter to Western investors interested in Turkmenistan
Written by , Wednesday, 3 Apr, 2013 – 18:05 | No Comment

Hello again Western investor,

Perhaps my last letter was too harsh. Turkmenistan does need your money; all of our sectors are so poor — natural gas, textile, fishing, agriculture, water. Still, I have one request when you come here to invest: hire local Turkmen talent, and I don’t just mean as grunts. Don’t import your people for the best jobs; use ours.

But maybe I ask for the impossible, not from you, but from us. A foreign employer means only one thing for many of us: not “money”, not “future”, not “adventure” or “opportunity”, but risk, and if there is one thing we have become averse to, it is risk. We even have an expression, puly ýassygyň astynda saklamak, “keeping the money under the pillow”: it means don’t invest, don’t trust institutions.

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A letter to Western investors interested in Turkmenistan
Written by , Sunday, 17 Mar, 2013 – 1:51 | 2 Comments

Dear Western investor,

You might have a Turkish colleague who is trying to convince you to invest in Turkmenistan, but should you believe him?

The picture looks nice. Turkish firms ran 63 projects in 2011 worth ~3.27 billion USD, and in 2010, ~4.5 billion USD. Such numbers at the height of the Great Recession are really amazing. And your Turkish colleague is probably hungry for more: the total business volume of Turkish construction firms in Turkmenistan is over 30 billion USD since 1991, and there are, right now, 1,500 Turkish-run construction projects in Turkmenistan worth 32 billion USD.

But look closer.

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More Avaza razzle dazzle
Written by , Saturday, 16 Mar, 2013 – 1:57 | One Comment

{Photograph by Twitter user Myrat10 (CC-usage).}

These days, state television in Turkmenistan is ablaze with talk of the president’s economic and cultural “commandment” to his country to develop and promote national tourism. The government has recently drawn up new tourist maps of the country (click photograph above).

The center of the buzz, of course, is Avaza, a tourist zone on the Caspian Sea (about which I’ve written here. In the hope of developing a vibrant hotspot of tourism, all manner of plans for new hotels and facilities (such as a water amusement park and a convention center) in the resort area are now hurriedly underway.

Allow the facepalming to begin. EurasiaNet.org’s David Trilling
visited Avaza in 2010. In the port town of nearby Turkmenbashi, he found only intense poverty, and ENVSEC released a map in 2011 showing all of the pollution just south of the Avaza tourist zone in the period 2006-2008, including radioactive waste and abandoned and flooded oil wells. Sounds like a good time on the beach to me.

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Turkmenistan’s benzene-based social contract gets “renegotiated” by authorities
Written by , Wednesday, 6 Feb, 2013 – 16:17 | No Comment

Underneath Turkmenistan is abundant natural wealth, with more being discovered all the time. So, our government applies useful rules for the Turkmen people. Natural gas, electricity, and even some amount of petrol — in 2011, we were the fourth cheapest in the world, at 12 pence per liter (click images to see more information) — are free for us, which is really something amazing. For example, at present, every person is entitled to 720 liters of free benzene per month. However, the process is that you must prepare the documents of your car and submit to the proper authority; afterward, you receive your benzine chip. The six months start from the moment you receive it.

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Azerbaijan’s Tartars and Oxfam strawberries ;-)
Written by , Tuesday, 16 Oct, 2012 – 17:23 | No Comment

Editor’s note: To mark world food day, Emil Baghirov, a blogger from Azerbaijan, travelled to the Tartar region in the center of the country to find out how Oxfam-supported strawberry farming is changing rural women’s lives. Here are his impressions.

This post has been provided courtesy of Oxfam.

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The Second (Tele)Coming of MTS in Turkmenistan
Written by , Wednesday, 5 Sep, 2012 – 1:00 | 2 Comments

Editor’s note: Last week, MTS returned to Turkmenistan two and a half years after its mysterious departure. But will this prove to be a Second (Tele)Coming? NewEurasia’s Annasoltan is skeptical.

In the first hours of August 30th, Turkmen who still possessed MTS SIM cards, two one and a half years after the company was mysteriously and unceremoniously booted out of Turkmenistan, reported receiving a signal. The long-awaited return of MTS to Turkmenistan has been greeted with widespread joy — and jokes.

Our state provider, Altyn Asyr, could not deal with the demand, although they did make strenuous efforts to prepare by offering a new variegated tariff regime with names like “100″ and “Go”. Yet, I’ve heard jokes about Altyn Asyr circulating in Turkmenistan. For example:

Re: “100″, “You try 99 times and only once you succeed in calling.”

Re: “Go”, “Rather than calling somebody, you better ‘go’ visit them, instead.”

Still, MTS is apparently rewarding loyal customers. Between August 30 and September 30, they are offering to old clients who have kept their SIM cards a 20% bonus on their accounts, plus 30 free minutes of calling within the MTS network every day.

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