“Perched beside the oil-rich Caspian Sea, compact, hospitable Azerbaijan is astounding in its scenic variety. Azerbaijan ... has many curiosities from bizarre mud volcanoes to perpetually burning fire phenomena. Snow-capped Caucasian peaks, semi-tropical forests, painted moonscape deserts and flower- filled grasslands .... Just an hour or two’s drive beyond the city, landscapes transform through painted semi- deserts to vineyards, orchards, oak woodlands and snow-capped peaks passing hilltop castles and magnificent canyons. Yet there are also villages that remain so remote that you might still be among the first foreign visitors in generations.”
Mark Elliot, writer
Historically a part of the Great Silk Road, Azerbaijan is a land where eastern colors combine magnificently with western progress. Located on the western coast of the Caspian Sea and in the eastern part of the Southern Caucasus, Azerbaijan is a country of unique nature, unmatched culture, centuries of history with its customs and traditions and fine cuisine, the fame of which has probably gone around the world and back several times. It has all the characteristics required to satisfy the expectations of even the most sophisticated gastronomists. And finally, it is the country of Caucasian hospitality and friendliness, open for anyone who is ready to experience local delights and get to know local people through their sumptuous cuisine.
Azerbaijan has an amazing historical and cultural heritage with more than 7,500 natural, archeological, architectural, and historical monuments. Cave drawings at Gobustan, Momine-Khatun and Garabaghlar mausoleums, the Palace of Sheki Khans, the Maiden Tower, the castles of Absheron, medieval manuscripts decorated with magnificent miniature paintings, antique rugs, and works of literature, arts and sculpture – all of this is just a small part of the country’s rich and priceless heritage.
The pilot area for the project was selected based on where the Slow Food network exists and is represented by Slow Food communities of producers: fruit farmers in Sis village and dairy producers in the districts of Shemakha and Ismaili, honey producers from the village of Ivanovka, collectors of wild nuts in the villages of Vandam, Gabala district, and Zarna, Qakh district.
Natural economy, predominantly agriculture sector, dominates the mountainous territories of Azerbaijani Greater Caucasus, which represent the region project works in. Local communities are diverse in ethnic composition, Azerbaijani, Avar, Lezgi, Russian, Dargin, Tat, Kurdish, Udin villages are interspersed.
The economic region of Daglig-Shirvan (Shamakhi, Ismaili districts) is a central region, in close to the capital, Baku, and is therefore prime territory for the active development of recreational activities, which place significant pressure on local ecology ( causing degraded lands especially in Shamakhi district). The traditional bases of the regional economy, viticulture and winemaking, are slowly recovering, while raising livestock, grain and vegetable farming, beekeeping, horticulture and food processing constitute a substantial part of the rural economy.
The economic region of Shaki-Zaqatala (Gabala, Shaki, Qakh districts) is an ethnically diverse mountainous region bordering Georgia. Due to large differences in altitude throughout the region, the area features a wide variety of natural conditions, and as a result is important for recreation and tourism activities. Agriculture and the food-processing industry dominate the regional economy with traditional specialization in viticulture, vegetable and fruit farming, animal husbandry, sericulture, grain and tobacco growing and forest resources and traditional crafting all represent substantial sources of livelihood for the local population.
The Project implemented by the Slow Food in partnership with APPU and NARMA
The Project is funded by the European Union
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