28 October 2014, 15:45
3345 |

Guerrilla Gardeners in Yerevan Plant Seeds of Activism

On October 25th, a workshop called “Guerrilla Gardening” took place in Yerevan and planted the seeds for a new environment-conscious effort in the city’s urban landscape.

Guerrilla gardening is a movement that started in the United States and has been around more or less since the 70s (although many jest that its 'roots' began in 1801 with Johnny 'Appleseed' Chapman, the American pioneer who brought apple trees to many US states). It involves the use of gardening techniques, often spontaneous, to provoke change in the local landscape – both political and environmental. Often, places selected are abandoned sites, private properties, or areas that aren’t being cared for – of which there are many in Armenia. All of this makes Yerevan a prime breeding ground for Guerilla Gardening to gain momentum in the country.

The workshop was hosted by Canadian-Armenian Raffi Elliott, a libertarian activist and founder of Get Treated, and two American-Armenian brothers, Vrej and Vahe Haroutounian, who moved to Armenia in 2012 and started a landscape and architecture firm. The three came together for the workshop after Elliot applied for and won a grant from the Awesome Foundation to “take the beautification of the city into our own hands.”

Elliott (featured above) says his inspiration for taking on the project is simply because he thinks there is a need for it. He continued, "We are breaking away from a past where people expect the government to deliver on unfulfilled promises. The government doesn’t care about public spaces in Yerevan, so it’s up to society to pick up the slack; we simply want to give them the tools to do so."

The entire initiative has been called “Gardening Eden” and this workshop, which took place in the back yard of Yerevan 2.0’s office (featured above) on Arami Street, was just the first phase. Its primary objective was to show participants how to create ‘seed bombs.’ What’s a seed bomb, you ask? According to Vahe Haroutounian, it’s five parts clay, one part seed, one part compost, and all parts community effort.

The little balls of all-natural goodness that participants created were not planted on-site. Rather, once they dry after a few days, their makers will simply toss (or, more aptly, 'launch') them around in empty lots on their way two and from work; and water them a little every day as they make their way. 

We have a lot to look forward to with phase two of “Gardening Eden,” which will take place in March and will witness the team tackling larger and more public green spaces the help of skills now acquired by community members who participated in the workshop.

Until then, we can expect to start seeing evidence of the fruits (or rather, flowers) of their labor around the community. For as their empowering Facebook event asserts, “We are Guerrilla Gardening. We are legion, we do not forget, we do not forgive, expect us…” 

Vrej and Vahe Haroutounianget their hands dirty creating ‘seed bombs’ with participants.
In this picture, Vrej and Vahe Haroutounianget their hands dirty creating ‘seed bombs’ with participants.
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