Panel speech by UNDP Resident Representative Alessandro Fracassetti at Italian-Azerbaijan dialogue on “Safe food, high-quality productions and a strong country brand”

Posted November 21, 2019

Photo credit: UNDP Azerbaijan

Your Excellency, Mr. Augusto Massari,

Ms. Simona Gatti,

Ms. Leyla Mammadova,

Mr. Giovanni Bastianalli,

Dear excellencies, partners and friends,

· It is a great pleasure to be here today and take part in this important discussion on safe food.

· According to the latest available estimates, about 821 million people in the world were undernourished in 2018. That means one in nine people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life. Hunger and malnutrition are in fact the number one risk to health worldwide – greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

· This is why food is at the core of the Sustainable Development Goals – the UN’s development agenda for the 21st century. The second of the UN’s 17 Goals is to ‘End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture’. Achieving this goal by the target date of 2030 will require a profound change of the global food and agriculture system.

· Azerbaijan has already gone through significant reforms in the field of food security. It has successfully increased its cultivation of diverse plant species and presence on global markets.

· Topics such as

organic agriculture, high-quality brand products and value chain analysis are on the top of the country’s agenda and the establishment of a Food Safety Agency has proven to be an important step. And the ongoing dialogue between Azerbaijan and Italy on exchanging best practices and

further improving the national Food Security System is commendable and will help open doors to new markets.

UNDP has excellent cooperation with the Government of Azerbaijan, and over the past years, we have implemented several projects to ensure better protection of agricultural plants of strategic importance.

We are currently working together with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Genetic Resources Institute of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences on improving the sustainable use of natural soil and water resources and the conservation of local varieties of cereals, fruits and vegetables. We are working directly with local farmers on the ground, providing them with hands-on training and guidance on how to use drip irrigation systems and timely identify and prevent pest and diseases.

We also conducted a study on crops in certain regions, to identify measures that could help ensure better integration of women and young people in the value-chains. We are now in the process of developing teaching materials and providing necessary tools and equipment that will help women and men farmers better protect both crops and environment, while also saving money.

Thanks to these efforts, we have already managed to fully rehabilitate some of the historically cultivated breeding varieties in Azerbaijan. For example, over a short period of time, more than 10 local varieties of cereals, especially the durum wheat, were restored in Azerbaijan. We are now supporting their cultivation on large areas. Hard wheat, happens to be a very important plant for both Azerbaijan and Italy. We believe that joint coordination of activities in this area and the exchange of experience can be of great benefit to both countries.

In addition to this, UNDP also helped rehabilitate more than 16 different vegetable varieties.

For example, knowing of the high importance of pomegranates for the country, we provided direct support to farmers engaged in the protection of wild pomegranate populations, restoration of varieties, and pomegranate farming. Just recently, a major Republican Conference on pomegranates was held in Goychay, the home town of the pomegranate, and an agritourism tour took place at a large pomegranate farm called the Red Valley, located in Hajigabul.

We are also closely working with the government to ensure that people in rural areas that are dependent on agriculture get the needed support and opportunities to ensure sustainable futures for their lives and livelihoods.

In this regard, the European Union has been a major supporter of UNDP’s development work both at the global and national level. In Azerbaijan, the EU and UNDP offices have collaborated on a wide array of activities.

For example, we are currently working together on supporting the development of small family businesses in the Shaki-Zaqatala Economic Zone through the “ABAD” regional centre in Balakan. This

project is funded by EU and co-funded and implemented by the UNDP, for our beneficiary and partner, ABAD Public Legal Entity.

Already 44 family businesses have benefited from this project, many of which are directly involved in the food sector. 15 food-producing family businesses are going through the Food Security certification processes and most of them have obtained their producer certificates already. I would like to use this opportunity to thank the State Food Security Agency for their support in this initiative.

The products have also been provided with internationally recognized GS1 barcodes on product stickers. Branding in the project includes not only brand names and marketing support, but also photo-video registration and family history to be placed on ABAD website and social media.

For the first time in Azerbaijan, a small pheasant farm product, an oyster mushroom growing family products, traditional “Alana” fruit desserts and many other products from the Sheki-Zaqatala region will enter the Baku market. Many of these family businesses are led by women, which is a strong indicator of the regional potential of Azerbaijani women entrepreneurship in rural areas.

I hope and believe that after this workshop, we will all be leaving with new ideas and new contacts, and that this workshop will give rise to valuable future partnerships, friendships and ventures – to leave no one behind.

Thank you!