Presidia – the Slow Food Initiative Lands in Azerbaijan
The Slow Food Presidia project began in 1999. After cataloging the first hundred products at risk of extinction in the Ark of Taste Project, Slow Food took a step further, entering the world of the production process, to learn about the areas of origin, meet producers and promote their products, skills, and knowledge.
The Presidia sustain quality productions at risk of extinction, protect unique regions and ecosystems, recover traditional processing methods, and safeguard native breeds and local plant varieties. Over the years, the project has become one of the most effective instruments to put Slow Food’s politics on agriculture and biodiversity into practice.
Today, there are more than 500 Presidia involving over 13,000 producers in more than 70 countries.
One of the EU-funded COVCHEG project’s components is focused on developing Slow Food Presidia in Azerbaijan. Representatives and experts from various national and international institutions worked together to choose Ark of Taste products with the potential to become Presidia, and held training sessions to build the capacity of these producers. Through the cooperation and negotiation process with small- and middle-scale producers from five pilot regions (namely Shamakhi, Ismaili, Gabala, Shaki, and Qakh) 50 producers have so far been involved in the formation of six new Presidia for unique elements of Azerbaijani agricultural biodiversity such as the Madrasa grape, the Ata-baba hazelnut, Rosehip syrup, Caucasian buffalo, Mountain honey and the Marsan tomato.
During the visits, priorities and concerns of farmers and stance on mutual collaboration platforms like the Presidia were discussed. The outcomes of the discussions will be taken into consideration prior to implementing the process of setting up new Presidia, which will take place in the near future. As far as we have observed so far, local farmers in the above-mentioned regions are open to being part of the Presidia project, which will greatly benefit all actors in the production process by eliminating obstacles that prevent the successful commercialization of endangered food species in Azerbaijan.
After a short presentation of the Presidia project, a young farmer from Madrasa village said: “If we manage to form this cooperation successfully and commercialize our products through small farmer brands, none of the youth will go abroad searching for factory jobs.”
Our experts have gathered all the necessary information and are currently working on building a production protocol for each Presidia. The willingness of local producers to get involved not only gives us a great degree of satisfaction but also galvanizes us in taking this course of action to alleviate the problems commonly encountered during harvest and manufacture.
Article by Mustafa Bayramli