Azerbaijan hopes for agriculture to drive its economic diversification

By: Aynur Jafarova

A two-day strategy review workshop designed to further improve the agriculture sector in Azerbaijan kicked off in Baku on October 23.

The event, organized by International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), provides an opportunity for donors, development specialists, civil society and government officials to exchange ideas, share knowledge, identify ways and means to further contribute to rural transformation, strengthen the agriculture sector and promote rural development interventions that can stimulate rural growth, create job opportunities and build vibrant rural communities.

“Our ongoing investment in agriculture and our partnership with IFAD has allowed us to transform the agriculture sector, put in place a reliable supply of food for our people and create business opportunities,” Azerbaijan’s Agriculture Minister Heydar Asadov said.

Over the course of the last decade, the Azerbaijani government and IFAD have worked together to boost the agricultural sector and lay the foundation for successful and sustainable agricultural growth.

“Working with IFAD, we were able to implement President Ilham Aliyev’s agricultural reforms and as a result today smallholder farmers are producing 80 percent of all agricultural output and acting as an engine of growth, providing jobs to over 40 percent of the workforce,” Asadov noted.

IFAD-funded interventions, which are closely aligned to the country’s agriculture and rural development strategies, have helped to develop the agriculture sector as a dominant force in the rural economy and improve food security by providing rural communities with access to assets and services for the sustainable management of natural resources, including improved irrigation and rangeland management. This has resulted in improved living conditions of disadvantaged rural communities.

“Building on this sound foundation and in-line with the government’s updated agriculture strategy: 2014-2020 Development Strategy of Agribusiness in Azerbaijan, IFAD will be adopting new and innovative approaches to boost rural transformation,” Director of IFAD’s Near East, North Africa, Central Asia and Europe Division Khalida Bouzar said.

She also noted the next generation of IFAD-funded programs and projects in Azerbaijan will focus on developing and strengthening value chains with a focus on the livestock sector.

“And more specifically on improving traditional husbandry practices, putting in place traceability mechanism, as well as enhancing quality and hygiene standards while helping to access new markets,” Bouzar added.

IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized UN agency based in Rome – the UN’s food and agriculture hub.

IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, it has provided about $15.8 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached some 430 million people.

IFAD’s partnership with Azerbaijan dates back to 1997. To date, 350,000 rural people have benefited from five IFAD-funded projects and programs. IFAD’s total investment of $67.4 million has leveraged an additional $125 million.

The agricultural sector is important not only for increasing Azerbaijan’s export potential, but also for restoring and protecting the country’s food security. Protecting the quality and price of food stuff produced in Azerbaijan and producing them in accordance with quality standards are among the top issues of the country’s food security.

Azerbaijan is meeting the population’s demands for meat products by 90 percent, poultry meat by 81 percent, eggs by 80 percent, dairy products by 75 percent, vegetable oil by 65 percent, and butter by 50 percent through local production.

As a result of the measures conducted in Azerbaijan to ensure food security, the production of husbandry goods has increased by 3.1 times, cattle-breeding by 3.4 times, meat production by 1.6 times, and grain production by 1.4 times in the past 10 years.

SOURCE: AZER NEWS

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