Biodiversity is worth attention

Situated at the crossroads of many cultures and natural conditions, Azerbaijan boasts a rich gastronomic culture that marvels at every visitor at first glance. Historically, favorable climate, strategic geographic position on the world map, and cross-cultural interaction among indigenous groups of the South Caucasus have all played an integral role together in the making of this culinary heritage unique to Azerbaijan. Just as human settlements and lifestyle began adapting to the harsh climate of the Caucasus millennia ago, so did agricultural production techniques and local farmer’s preferences. Thanks to our farmers’ careful selection of the species and crossbreeding, we now have a wealth of new and more durable plant and animal varieties. Hardier than most commercial varieties and breeds and resistant to environmental stresses, these local breeds are vital elements in any climate change resilience strategy in the future.

However, the agro-biodiversity of the Caucasus, if not protected and preserved, can disappear. In our modern age, to meet the ever-growing demand for food, producers have largely prioritized more productive and genetically modified hybrids. Commercialization and marketing of rare food varieties often are neglected along the way. Seemingly, the miracle of the Caucasus we often marvel at and take for granted might permanently be lost.

To combat this regional and global (by extension) crisis with the financial support from  E.U. Commission, Slow Food together with Animal Protection Public Union and National Association of Rural Municipalities of Azerbaijan launched COVCHEG project (Community-based Value Chain Enhancement in the Greater Caucasus Mountains area) is an invaluable opportunity to map and promote the country’s agricultural and food diversity. In five targeted districts (Shamakhi, Ismailli, Gabala, Shaki, Gakh) of the Southern Caucasus within Shaki-Zaqatala and Daglig-Shirvan economic regions, the projects aims at adding value to local identities and gastronomy, preserving biodiversity and cultural heritage, and creating sustainable livelihoods for residents of rural Azerbaijan. The electronic booklet attached below might be a helpful guide for starters interested in biodiversity, its connection to our everyday life, and initiatives to protect and preserve it.