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Azerbaijan, officially known as the Republic of Azerbaijan, is the largest country in the Caucasus region, located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe. It was a part of Soviet Union until its independence in 1991, and is now a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The country borders Caspian Sea on the eastern side. Azerbaijan’s population is about 9 million, and the name of the capital city is Baku. Not long ago, the country had a war with the neighboring Armenia which not only displaced a large number of people but also slowed down the pace of development.

Azerbaijan is administratively divided into 10 economic regions, 66 districts (rayons) and 77 cities (sahar). Mountains occupy about half of the country although there are vast flat lands in the central region. Also present are mountain ranges and thousands of small and big rivers. About 18 percent of the country lies below sea level. Azerbaijan has three types of climate: temperate in the southeast along the coastline; temperate dry in the center and northeast; and cold in the rest of the country.

The agricultural sector of Azerbaijan, the second most important natural resource after oil, is highly diversified due to varying topography. Major food crops include wheat, barley, vegetables, grapes and other fruits, while the main cash crops are cotton and tobacco. Livestock constitute an important economic sub-sector. The agricultural land comprises, besides forests, cropland, pastures, and rangeland. Rainfall is low and most of the cultivated land is irrigated. Average size of individual land holdings is 3 to 5 hectares. The agricultural sector accounted for about 20 percent of the national GDP between 1997 and 2001, but then it started declining. The deteriorating irrigation infrastructure, soil fertility depletion, erosion, salinity and pollution reduced the agriculture’s contribution to GDP to just 5.2 percent in 2010. While the government continues to own most of the pasture land, small-scale farmers now produce more than 90 percent of the agricultural output.


There is not much of history of agricultural extension in Azerbaijan. Like most other countries that were once a part of the Soviet Union Block, Azerbaijan also inherited technology dissemination function embedded into the operation of large commercial, state-owned farms. Various subject-matter specialists, who operated the state farms, occasionally advised small family farm owners.

With the end of the Soviet era, an independent Azerbaijan was faster than other countries in the region to initiate land reforms around 1997. The reforms concentrated on liquidation or privatization of state trade organizations, disbanding of large state and collective farms, and distribution of land among private individuals. By the end of 1999, about 1.3 million hectare of cultivated land had been distributed among about 790,000 holders. The privatization of land ownership quickly highlighted not only the new farmers’ inability to properly operate their family farms but also a lack of specialists who could advise them on comprehensive farm management and marketing.

Donor-funded projects, such as a regional project “Support to Private Initiatives in Agriculture”, funded by GTZ (now GTI) and implemented in Zaqatala District starting 1998, have aimed at establishing advisory services mostly on private lines. A project started by the Diakonie Deutschland in 1996, led to the creation of a national NGO called Agro Information Center of Azerbaijan (AIM), which functions as an advisory center. Similarly, another NGO called Ganja Agri-business Association (GABA), was established through joint funding by the Eurasia Foundation and USAID, and which is now engaged in advising people affected by agrarian reforms. Multilateral donors that have assisted Azerbaijan include the World Bank (examples: Water Users Association Development Support Project; Agricultural Development and Credit Project), FAO (example: Capacity Building in Rural Development for Internal Displaced Persons), IFAD (example: Integrated Rural Development Project), European Union, Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Development projects have been funded by USA (examples: Participatory Agriculture Project Program, or PAPA; Farmer-to-Farmer Program, or F2F; Agri-Input Market Development in Azerbaijan, or AMDA), as well as Germany, Turkey and Japan.

The present situation of Azerbaijan’s extension advisory services, both public and private, is far from satisfactory. Although the government has lately taken certain initiatives to develop the agricultural sector, the priority of the government and of donors on investing in the oil sector has overshadowed the move. The country has been importing substantial food to meet consumers’ needs.

Andrea Bohn,
12 de ene. de 2011 6:48