Photo: UNDP Azerbaijan. A new variety of pomegranate fruits now available in crop genebanks of Azerbaijan

Hajigabul, 12 October 2019 – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of Agriculture launched today the first joint agrotourism tour as part of a broader public-private partnership initiative in Hajigabul that aims to promote the benefits of rural tourism and sustainable farming for economic and community development.  A fairly young region of Azerbaijan established only 3 decades ago, Hajigabul is currently home to a vibrant flora, fauna and numerous architectural monuments of cultural and historical significance and has a great potential to become one of Azerbaijan’s well-established agrotourism destinations.

The agrotourism tour took place at a private farmland in the Meyniman village of Hajigabul owned by the Red Valley private company with the organization of UNDP and the Agrarian Supply and Procurement Open Stock Joint Company under the Ministry of Agriculture. The event brought together over 70 people from among the country’s business community, government agencies and diplomatic missions, along with a number of other national and international visitors.

The visit was an exciting opportunity for participating guests and foreign delegates to mix and mingle surrounded by nature, with local food and beverages on offer, including organic pomegranate produce like juice and traditional Azerbaijani meat sauce made from authentic fruits of the Red Valley farmland as well as the organic fish cultivated in the farmland’s ponds. The tour participants had a unique opportunity to kick start this season’s first pomegranate harvest at the Red Valley and enjoy an adrenaline-driven horseback riding with experienced instructors. Located favourably in Meyniman village, the premises of the Red Valley span along 90 hectares of land plot, 40 ha of which is a pomegranate garden, 5 ha is a nursery for growing pomegranate seedlings and 40 ha is used for ponds for watering and fish farming.  The Red Valley’s lush orchards, heavy with fruits, offered the visitors of the agrotourism tour exquisite varieties of pomegranate, some of them centuries-old and traditionally grown in Azerbaijan, while others are newly cultivated. Years of thoughtful cultivation along with extensive research and development helped the Red Valley team develop a conceptually new variety of a pomegranate fruit that grows on the trunk of the trees as opposed to the bushes where pomegranates traditionally grow. This brand new variety of pomegranate is called ‘MinaShirin’ and is an example of innovation in agriculture, which agrotourism tours like this one in Hajigabul can further showcase to other countries of the world.

Today’s event reflects a growing trend towards agrotourism, the travel and hospitality industry’s most appealing and fastest-growing sector. A truly global practice, agrotourism is a countryside activity that brings a diverse range of visitors to rural settings, such as farms and ranches that offer a variety of services and pastime entertainment, including horse-riding, animal feeding, fruit and vegetable picking and farm-to-table eateries that have locally grown organic produce on display, among other things.

Already, in several countries around the globe where UNDP implements projects on economic development, agrotourism initiatives have been unfolding in recent years. While some countries use it as a tool to improve their tourism potential, it is a vigorous way to also contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to reverse land degradation and stop biodiversity loss. 

Around the world, agrotourism is known as a tool to accelerate growth and enhance farm profitability. In Azerbaijan, where agrotourism is yet at a nascent stage, the Government and the UN Development Programme work hand-in-hand to promote this new field in the country, teaming up with the private sector, small-holding businesses and farmers to lead this first initiative and stimulate additional investments in rural tourism.       

Organized today by the UNDP in cooperation with the Agrarian Supply and Procurement OSJC under the Ministry of Agriculture, the agrotourism tour is the first public activity to promote rural tourism within the project on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Globally Important Agrobiodiversity funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), with co-financing from the UNDP, and jointly implemented by the UNDP and the Ministry of Agriculture.

Since its start in 2016, the project has established two vegetable farmer-to-farmer network cooperatives in the Goranboy region of Azerbaijan and created gene banks of cereal plants in Shaki, Gobustan and Tartar. Altogether, 57 landraces and diverse varieties of endemic fruit and vegetable crops have been introduced in these gene banks. 

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Contact information:

For media inquiries, please contact Arzu Jafarli, Communications and External Relations Analyst for UNDP in Azerbaijan at arzu.jafarli@undp.org

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