Looking for the Fruits of the Garden of Eden

Artsvi Bakhchinyan

Born in Italy, where she completed her university studies, Chiara Haiganush Meghikian was one of the co-founders of the "Padus-Araxes" Association, dedicated to the promotion of Armenian culture. She currently lives in the United States and is the director of the Environment and Sustainable Agricultural Foundation in Armenia.

- Dear Chiara, being an Armenian born in Italy who has lived for many years in USA, it seems that recently you have spent more of your time in Armenia. Could you please tell about your activities here?
I will be happy to. The first time I came to Armenia to work was on April 2011. Bert Hellinger, a world famous psychotherapist and the father of Systemic Constellation Therapy, had agreed to come to Yerevan to introduce his work for the first time in Armenia.
I was very, very happy about it. I had told him that my dream was to introduce his approach here and I couldn’t believe this was really happening. So the conference took place at the American University. Wonderful people from all over the world attended this unique get together. The subjects we addressed were very difficult and hard at times. We looked at the attitudes we see among Armenians and not Armenians, both living here and not. In the end, I realized that we cannot wait for others to help us. It is our responsibility to take responsibility.
I was asked to continue to offer workshops in Systemic Constellations. Thanks to this opportunity I started to come to Armenia more and more often.
While in Armenia, a great friend took me around the country to know more and more deeply this land.
- How did it happened that you switched your activities to the agricultural field?
During our trips to the regions, I realized how this beautiful land was at a great risk. Its purity was in danger of being seriously contaminated. I felt that something needed to be done, immediately, before it was too late. So when a group of honey producers came to ask for help, it was clear that it was a call for action.
- The whole world nowadays is in search of organic food. Do you think that what is being produced in Armenia could be acceptable in international market?
Living in America for almost 20 years has given me the possibility to realize how important it is to have access to healthy food. I think that first and foremost, people in Armenia need to realize how important it is for them to have access to healthy food. Unfortunately lack of information and knowledge of the adverse effects of the use of hormones and pesticides and antibiotics in agriculture is taking the country to a direction opposite to that of healthy food.
A movement all around the world is looking for organic food but I am not sure that at the moment such a movement is present in Armenia. I know for a fact, for example, that the honey produced in Armenia, in most cases, is not suitable for export to Europe. This is due to the large use of antibiotics and pesticides employed to treat bees. These products, which remain in the honey and in the wax, are dangerous to health and therefore their use is banned in the EU.
- How much the outside world, do you think, is aware of the green movement in Armenia?
I am not sure there is wide knowledge of any green movement in Armenia. I believe that the first sign of a true movement from people to rise awareness about the environment is that of the Teghut group.
- You travel a lot through the regions of Armenia. Do you see any developments there or whatever is done does not change the general image of backwardness?
I believe a lot of work needs to be done in terms of information. Once people have information and be educated about the risks of certain interventions, they will react. For this reason, we have established the Environment and Sustainable Agriculture Educational Foundation (ESA) with two other friends.
We believe that education, particularly of the young people, will empower and encourage them to have better products that one day will be greatly appreciated also abroad.
- Many of our Diaspora compatriots know you as one of the initiators of the Padus-Araxes Association in Venice, which has been organizing intensive courses of Armenian language and culture for 27 years…
I was co-founder, together with Professor Hayr Levon Zekiyan and Professor Gabriella Uluhogian of the Association “Padus-Araxes” for the development of Armenian culture in the Diaspora. One of the activities of the association is the course of Armenian language at the University of Venice. I am very honored to have been part of this group and thankful to Hayr Levon Zekiyan and his collaborators for the relentless work that has continued through these years.
- Tell us about your roots. How do you manage to combine Armenian and Italian identities?
I was born in Italy. My grandfather Aram had arrived there from Diyarbakir, in Anatolia. I feel strongly my Armenian roots, Italy is where I was born, the country that has given refuge to my Grandfather, and America is where my children were born. I am thankful for this richness.
- Do your sons have some interest in Armenia and Armenian culture?
In their own way, yes, they do. Our children come to Armenia to share their passions with their peers and to get to know better this country. They collaborate with various organizations both on environmental issues and in the arts.
- What are your future projects in Armenia?
I am ready to respond to the requests that may come to me and to the Foundation.
As far as trainings in Systemic Constellations, there is a very interesting group of people that have gathered to apply the systemic approach to organizations.We are going to continue to work to develop it and to invite experienced professionals to share their knowledge.
As far as the activity of ESA Educational Foundation, we are starting a training in organic beekeeping. We have a good number of very motivated beekeepers that have understood the importance of a more sustainable way to conduct their activity.
Of course, after honey, we are willing to address all other issues of organic and sustainable agriculture that may present.
May one day the products from Armenia be sought as the “Fruits from the Garden of Eden.”
"USA Armenian Life," December 6, 2012

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