As they look across Joghaz’s waters, Berkaber’s residents can easily see inhabitants of the Azerbaijani village of Mezem relaxing on the reservoir’s shores, celebrating weddings or working in the fields.
The rich farmland on the other side of the reservoir that once also sustained Berkaber – and led to its name, which means “bounty” – lies within range of Azerbaijani artillery, beyond reach.
Unable to access these fields for over 25 years, many in Berkaber now instead grow fruit and vegetables in greenhouses. Some were built with assistance from a Yerevan non-governmental organization, Sahman (Border), which runs various economic-development and social-welfare projects in Armenia’s frontline villages.
But with no gas supply in the village, it's difficult to make money with a greenhouse, comments greenhouse owner Suren Khudaverdyan, 64.
“Gasification would let us sell fruit and vegetables during the off-season at a higher price," he says. As it is, villagers like Khudaverdyan only use their greenhouses in warm, sunny seasons.
Some assistance, though, does exist to mitigate these obstacles.
The Armenian government covers part of the price of electricity and irrigated water and has exempted Berkaber villagers from paying tax on the fields which they can no longer cultivate.
To encourage business, it also does not require border residents to pay income or VAT taxes. But the relevant law, passed in 2015, expires early this year.