SEATTLE — Azerbaijan’s agricultural production has severely decreased over the years, from 20 percent of the country’s GDP in 2001 to less than 6 percent today.
Sustainable agriculture in Azerbaijan has proven difficult due to a number of factors, beginning with the rapid expansion of its petroleum operations. Additionally, land degradation has reduced crop yields by 20 to 30 percent, resulting in barren tracts of land throughout Azerbaijan. Soil erosion and sanitization are further concerns for the country after years of irrigated farming.
Policymakers are calling for increased cooperation with research organizations, such as International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) to promote sustainable agriculture and food security in Azerbaijan. Dr. Ilham Guliyev, Deputy Minister Azerbaijan Ministry of Agriculture, emphasizes that “a key concern for the sector is increasing productivity in a manner that is harmonized with sustainable development.”
Azerbaijan is at a stage where practical solutions can be applied to its agricultural challenges that can potentially double or triple production and small farmer incomes. The country maintains the potential for growth and development; it has an advantage in producing traditional agricultural products and higher value products with favorable soil conditions.
Sustainable agriculture in Azerbaijan is possible through:
- Management of natural resources
- Research-based initiatives
- Technological advancements
- Institutional and social solutions
Technical innovations have already significantly impacted Azerbaijan’s various agro-ecosystems. Azerbaijan’s collaboration with ICARDA and Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) has resulted in improved varieties that account for 50 percent of the area under wheat cultivation, 20 percent under chickpea and lentil and 6 under percent barley.
Conservation agriculture is another solution to ensure sustainable agriculture in Azerbaijan. This method supports minimal tillage and crop rotation. Although conservation agriculture is suitable for irrigated and rainfed systems, it is particularly suited to subsistence farmers in areas with poor soil.
Conservation agriculture results in higher yields, reduced production costs and improved resource conservation.
Azerbaijan’s government has created nine targets for the production and processing of agricultural products. The agricultural sector aims to establish a suitable environment for the production and procession of competitive products based on sustainable development.
Azerbaijan’s goals for 2020 include:
- Creating 20,000 jobs in the agricultural sector
- Establishing 25 small-to-medium enterprises
- Developing 100 investment products
- Specializing 200 farmers on agricultural exports
- Initiating five “green markets” and 50 “farmer shops”
Sustainable agriculture in Azerbaijan will improve food security, resource conservation and economic development. It looks to be a boon for both farmers and Azerbaijani citizens as a whole.
– Carolyn Gibson