The COVCHEG project supports community-based initiatives and employment generation in rural Azerbaijan
Slow Food, in partnership with the Animal Protection Public Union and the National Association of Rural Municipalities of Azerbaijan, is developing a project funded by the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Azerbaijan to support smallholder famers in the Greater Caucasus Mountains region. Working closely with local authorities, civil society groups and other stakeholders, the partnership will promote local identities and gastronomy as well as the conservation of biodiversity and cultural heritage in the area.
Extremely varied soil and climate conditions across Azerbaijan have led to greatly diversified plant genetic resources and animal breeds. This variety of crops and breeds has evolved over thousands of years of agriculture and pastoralism thanks to the careful selection of farmers, and is now in urgent need of protection and preservation. The first phase of the project will therefore lay the foundations for an inventory of traditional crops, breeds and food products, as well as their production and processing methods.
In the first six months of the project, mapping in the five pilot areas (Gabala, Shaki, Ismaili, Shamakhi and Qakh) was carried out through a combination of field visits, desk research and meetings with stakeholders. As a result, around 40 products have already been identified: local varieties of vegetables and fruits and also their traditional processing methods, handmade sweets, products of animal origin, native grape varieties and more. The findings also confirmed that in Azerbaijan, as in other countries, the introduction of imported varieties has pushed local crops and breeds to the brink of extinction. A particularly dramatic example was found in the Qakh region, where a tomato variety from Marsan village almost disappeared in 2000s and was saved only thanks to the actions of a local peasant woman.
The next steps will be to select the communities connected to the identified products, verify which products can board Slow Food’s global Ark of Taste catalog and decide which food production chains can be further developed within the project.
Slow Food International Press Office
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