Due to its socio-economic impact, employing 36.3% of the population, the agricultural sector is particularly important for Azerbaijan. About 55% 4.8 million ha) of the country's total area are agriculture-oriented lands, whereby 2 million ha are farmed, and 2.4 million are used as hayfields and pastures. At present, the agricultural sector is essentially characterised by smallholding structures (71% of privately-owned farmland measuring less than 3 ha) and a low level of institutionalisation.
Since 2016, the country is eager to develop its agricultural sector in order to diversify its economy, which to date is highly dependent on oil and gas exports. In this regard, a national Strategic Road Map for the Production and Processing of Agricultural Products has been approved. It aims at the creation of favourable framework conditions for the agricultural sector to increase the domestic agricultural production and strengthen the national food security.
At present, an increasing intensification of the agricultural sector can be observed, accompanied by inappropriate and unsustainable land use, the conversion of high-quality grassland into arable land, the concentration towards a narrower list of crops, an increased use of pesticides, fertilizer and water resources. This trend causes negative effects on the environment and biodiversity, such as fertile soil degradation, a result of salinization and water and soil pollution, leading to a decline in agricultural productivity and restricting the improvement of production capacity and productivity. In addition, climate change creates increasing risks for agricultural business and poses challenges for sustainable practices. The rural population and smallholder farmers are especially vulnerable to the negative impacts of intensification and climate change. Sustainable agricultural management practices can help to maintain the productivity of agricultural land and livelihood of the rural population, leading to improved local food security and sustained development of the local population.
The overall objective of ECOserve is to support the Azerbaijani government in its mission to strengthen its agricultural sector. Thereby, the project focuses strongly on target 7 of the Strategic Road Map for the Production and Processing of Agricultural Products, which aims to protect the environment, foster the sustainable use of natural resources, and build enhanced climate resilience in the agricultural sector.
ECOserve offers policy advice and demand-oriented support for the improvement of the political and administrative framework for the agricultural production, e.g. the review of regulations and incorporation of legal acts and procedures that ensure the sustainable use of natural resources and agricultural inputs. Part of this process is the promotion of the exchange between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources with the aim to strengthen the topic of protection of the environment and biodiversity in the agricultural sector.
With the aim to improve the base for decision making on sustainable management of natural resources in the agricultural sector, the programme focuses on the improvement of the availability of related data in the agricultural sector. In that respect, ECOserve assists its partner in the preparation of data on the demand for water resources in the agricultural sector and in the mapping of grasslands and their condition. In the long term, this will support the development of strategies for the conservation of grassland and agricultural land and the design of sustainable management practices in Azerbaijan.
To foster sustainable and climate-adapted agricultural practices in Azerbaijan, ECOserve implements a pilot project in Kurdamir district, located in the central Azerbaijan. Therefore, a socio-economic study was carried out in the pilot region to identify demand trends, collect gender-sensitive data on the prevailing conditions, needs and challenges of the local population involved in agricultural production. Based on the results of the study, sustainable measures and practices will be designed in a gender-sensitive manner, offering alternative approaches to the existing agricultural production systems of the pilot area, especially for small farmers. Together with various stakeholders, including state service provider and local farmers of the surrounding villages those measures will be implemented and tested.
The pilot activities are accompanied by trainings on sustainable agriculture to strengthen the capacities of relevant governmental institutions, rural service providers and smallholder farmers in the pilot district. Therefore, training courses on sustainable and biodiversity-friendly and climate-adapted agriculture will be developed and provided to relevant trainings and education institutions. The training courses thereby are designed to explore the different roles and responsibilities of men and women in the use of natural resources, with the aim of raising awareness of the contribution of women to sustainable and biodiversity-oriented agriculture.
ECOserve also strives to create awareness and interest in the society for biodiversity and environmentally friendly agriculture. With the aim of reaching young people in particular, awareness raising activities include the development and broadcasting of radio programs and animated videos on sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and climate change. Furthermore, study tours, competitions and events for children and students are organized to sensitize and educate the young generation for sustainable agriculture.
More information on GIZ activities in Azerbaijan can be found here.
- Ministry of Agriculture (MoA)
- Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources (MENR)
- Ministry of Education (MoEdu)
- ADA University (formerly Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy)
- Azerbaijan State Agrarian University
- Agrarian Science and Innovation Center (AEIM)
- Regional Agrarian Science and Innovation Center (RAEIM)