There's no work in Sisian and life is hard, says Sisian resident Hovik Hovakimyan, whom Hetq staff came across by chance on the Yerevan-Sisian road while he was taking his sheep out to pasture.
Hovakimyan says he and his neighbors take turns taking the sheep out to pasture. He works as a shepherd once a month, taking the sheep out at 5:30 am. When we arrived, he was tending to 350 sheep belonging to 20 families. He himself owns 5 sheep. He says taking the sheep out to pasture are divided among them in the month; if he doesn't take the sheep he will be forced to pay 5,000 AMD (about $12.15 USD). He says that the price of sheep was higher 3–4 years ago, and the main buyers were Iranians: the price of one (30 kg) sheep was 50,000 AMD ($122) then; now it's 30–35,000 AMD ($73–85).
Hovakimyan's main job is to work as a storekeeper in one of the military units. He has two daughters. He says if he doesn't suffer, he can't live because life in Sisian is hard. "Life in Sisian is very sad, like a shepherd's day. There's no life in Sisian; Sisian is one of the most neglected cities in the country. Whoever can, collects his money; they don't think about the people, the others," he says, looking in the direction of the sheep and leaning on his narrow staff with his two hands. There's no dissatisfaction in his voice because they've become accustomed to this sad life, and anyway, no one's left to whom to address complaints.
"There's no work overall in Sisian. There's one customs point; that's where they work, some are military, and some work in the police. There are no products, no factory. A small textile workshop opened; 50–60 people work there," he says.
Apart from sheep, he keeps 3 cows, but he says that he can't keep many anyway because there's the matter of selling what is produced. Milk is now sold for 140 AMD ($0.34), purchased mainly by companies that manufacture dairy products; however, ideally, milk is sold for 200 AMD ($0.49) — to individuals. In the summer season, they buy one bale of hay (to feed the livestock) for 1,000 AMD ($2.43), but when the season ends, they will buy it for 1,500 AMD ($3.65).
"In that case, keeping [livestock] is not beneficial — it will get expensive, [while] the villager's product will remain at the same price. The villager was wretched and will remain wretched," he concludes and smiles. He has nothing else to say, he says, because nothing will change in the villager's life by complaining. Instead, he suggests we go to his house so he can treat us to his hospitality. We had already reached the car when Hovik calls out: "Definitely come! It's an Armenian's home, not someplace else."