GEF, UNDP to enhance agricultural biodiversity and sustainable use of indigenous plant resources in Azerbaijan

Baku, June 29, AZERTAC

The largest and most populated country of the South Caucasus, Azerbaijan enjoys the vast amount of nearly 5 million hectares of agricultural land, with almost 40% of it actively cultivated. Known for the enormous diversity of its soil potential, genetic plant resources and robust climatic conditions, Azerbaijan is considered one of the evolution centres of cultivated plants. With more than 4500 higher plants and over 230 endemic plants registered in the country, crop production in Azerbaijan accounts for almost half of the total agricultural production nationwide, whereas livestock farming makes up the remaining half.

In spite of this significant potential, Azerbaijan’s genetic plant resources are vulnerable to a number of factors that put the country’s agrobiodiversity potential in jeopardy. This includes the indiscriminate distribution of exotic crop varieties that displace the genetic diversity of indigenous crops, degradation of agricultural ecosystems, land fragmentation and frequent droughts in some areas of high crop diversification. All of these factors have a strong negative effect on both agriculture, environment and the economic wellbeing of people in general. Indeed, agriculture is an important means of accelerating the livelihoods and employability of rural communities in Azerbaijan, as 40% of the population in this country are engaged in the agricultural activity.

In line with the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the Azerbaijan Development Concept 2020: Outlook for the future, UNDP and the Government of Azerbaijan have agreed that the conservation and rational use of existing agrobiodiversity along with nurturing this unique potential for future generations is an absolute imperative for the development of the country.

Today, in this spirit of mutual understanding, UNDP and the Ministry of Agriculture joined forces to boost economic competitiveness in the non-oil sector through Azerbaijan’s vast agricultural biodiversity potential. Bringing together approximately 40 representatives of government agencies, development aid organisations and members of international community, the joint inception workshop held today at Hilton Baku has introduced the new project on ‘Conservation and sustainable use of globally important agrobiodiversity’.

Funded by Global Environment Facility, the project will be implemented through 2023 and will support the production of ecologically clean agricultural and food products in Azerbaijan, while implementing measures to protect genetic reserves and biodiversity. The project seeks to also improve research and scientific knowledge in the agrarian sector while offering significant support to capacity building and staff training in this area.

More specifically, the project will focus on the collection, conservation, mapping and evaluation of genetic diversity of plants. One of the primary ambitions of the project is to create the core and trait collection bases for wild relatives of cultivated plants and landraces in Azerbaijan. Based on these resources, the project will invest substantially in the formation of new varieties of plants and indigenous natural crops.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Minister of Agriculture Inam Karimov emphasised that “Azerbaijan is a country with rich biodiversity and sufficiently fertile soil and climatic conditions, which allow for cultivation of almost all sorts of agricultural crops across the country”. Further Minister Karimov pointed out that he protection of wild ancestors of cultivated plants was of great importance not only to Azerbaijan, but is important also in other parts of the globe. Minister Karimov endorsed the project implementation plans aimed at preventing soil erosion and degradation in targeted areas of the country.

In his opening remarks, the United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Azerbaijan Ghulam Isaczai noted that “agriculture plays a paramount role in the economic diversification of countries like Azerbaijan, which has centuries-long traditions in fostering its agricultural production and rural development”. He also added that “by expanding investments in agriculture –including plant and crop production, gardening and tree nursery, countries can protect the environment, eradicate hunger, reduce poverty and empower people”.

Safeguarding agricultural biodiversity, first and foremost, contributes to meeting multiple Sustainable Development Goals and targets, which guide key policy interventions both at UNDP and in the Government of Azerbaijan. More specifically, agrobiodiversity efforts can accelerate the implementation of Global Goal 1: No Poverty, Global Goal 2: Zero Hunger, Global Goal 3: Good Health and Wellbeing, Global Goal 5: Gender Equality, Global Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, Global Goal 13: Climate Action and Global Goal 15: Life on Land.

Implemented jointly with the Ministry of Agriculture, the new project envisages close collaboration with the Genetic Resources Institute under Azerbaijan National Academy of Science and the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

AZERTAG.AZ :GEF, UNDP to enhance agricultural biodiversity and sustainable use of indigenous plant resources in Azerbaijan

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