Speech of Ghulam M. Isaczai at the signing ceremony of the project conservation and sustainable use of globally important agro-biodiversity

Feb 7, 2017

Dear Minister Asadov, distinguished guests, UN colleagues, media representatives, ladies and gentlemen

It is my great pleasure and privilege to join you today in the signing of this new project between the Ministry of Agriculture and the United Nations Development Programme on ‘Conservation and Sustainable Use of Globally Important Agro-biodiversity’.

The project is worth USD 4.3 millions of which $ 4.1 is coming from the Global Environment Facility and $ 200,000 from UNDP for a duration of 5 years, complemented by in-kind contribution from the Government of Azerbaijan.

The project will support national efforts to maintain biodiversity of native crops. It will do so through a set of measures aiming at improving the protection of native crops, support agro-biodiversity conservation and increase production and use of native crops in commercial farms and small agricultural holdings.

This intervention will also seek to enhance the state of knowledge of agro-biodiversity, build national capacities and cooperation between relevant institutions and farmers and improve access to markets for local farmers.

Azerbaijan is a globally important centre of agro-biodiversity. The country is blessed with a diversity of climatic zones in combination with rich farmland and produces a broad range of crops. And it is the primary focus of origin of a number of globally important food crops, including grapes, cherry, pears, wheat and many more.

Preserving agro-biodiversity is critical for the sustainable development of any country. It can help make agricultural ecosystems more resilient and productive, manage climate risks and contribute to better nutrition, productivity and livelihoods.

Using and safeguarding agricultural biodiversity can also deliver on multiple Sustainable Development Goals which Azerbaijan has committed to achieve when it signed the new Agenda 2030. I have expressed satisfaction on behalf of the UN in Azerbaijan to see that this commitment has been taken seriously as reflected the establishment of the National Coordination Council on Sustainable Development, where the Ministry of Agriculture is also represented.

Let me stress again the importance agricultural biodiversity as the foundation of agriculture and the source of genetic material vital for food security which can offer new income and livelihood opportunities. It contributes to health and nutrition, providing a rich source of nutrients through diverse crop varieties. It also helps to restore degraded lands and forests; gives farmers options to manage climate risks, provides a cost-effective way to manage crop pests and diseases; and contributes to maintain traditional knowledge and culture. (This could be shorter)

Finally, this project will help to deliver on the implementation of the Strategic Roadmap that prioritizes the agricultural sector, focusing on food security, organic farming, support to farmers in accessing new markets.

Let me take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to the Ministry of Agriculture and personally to Mr. Heydar Asadov, for the excellent leadership and ownership in designing the project and bringing it to the signing stage. My thanks also go to the team of national experts for their inputs and importantly to the GEF for the generous financial support without which the project would have been possible.

At UNDP, we very much look forward to working with you in the implementation of this important project and wish you all the best of success.

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