Slow Food in Azerbaijan presents its results as part of the EU-funded COVCHEG project

The COVCHEG (Community-based Value Chain Enhancement in the Greater Caucasus Mountains Area) project, funded by the EU and coordinated by Slow Food in partnership with the Azerbaijan Tourist Board (ATB), has been completed. On December 9, 2021, the closing ceremony took place in the authentic Azerbaijani city of Sheki, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The COVCHEG project, which aims to preserve local gastronomy and cultural heritage with special emphasis on economic regeneration and the well-being of rural communities, was an important step for Slow Food in Azerbaijan to safeguard what remains of biodiversity local, and to develop sustainable local value chains as viable alternatives to established and powerful chains that destroy local production.

“The great potential of the project has been fully confirmed in recent years, and Slow Food is proud to have been able to provide support and visibility to small producers, chefs and citizens working in the country. As Slow Food, we will continue to work in Azerbaijan through the newly created network and contribute to a positive change in the system of food production and consumption, making it good, clean, fair and accessible to all ”, said Paolo di Croce, Secretary General of Slow Food International.

In order to maintain quality production and protect unique regions while recovering traditional processing methods, 5 Slow Food Sentinels in Azerbaijan were established under the project.

Fitting perfectly into the biodiversity strategy for 2030, a central element of the European Green Deal, establishing a wider EU-wide network of protected areas on land and at sea, the Slow Sentinels Food directly support farmers and help create farming communities that protect biodiversity and preserve traditional food production techniques. This helps the farmers to feel less isolated as they are able to overcome difficulties together and can access the market without the intervention of a third party. Farmers have also received training from relevant experts and have access to an international support network.

All products protected by the Sentinels are historically and culturally linked to a specific region. Some of them are also included in Slow Food’s international catalog – the Ark of Taste. A Arche du Goût national menu of Azerbaijan has also been incorporated using different types of products listed in this catalog, such as Rushanka Onion, Ata-baba Hazelnuts, Caucasian Buffalo Yogurt and other important local products that need to be put back on the table.

There are also 11 Azerbaijani cooks who are members of the Slow Food Cooks Alliance. Using the products of the Sentinelles and l’Arche du Goût projects and giving visibility to small producers, they help protect agricultural biodiversity and safeguard gastronomic knowledge and local cultures. Members of this international network also travel, meet and cook together to transfer local knowledge to relevant stakeholders all over the world.

Throughout the project, the role of the local partner, Azerbaijan Tourist Board (ATB), was fundamental, particularly in the development of one of the highlights of the project, namely the Slow Food Travel Concept, which brings together local producers and gastronomic communities from certain regions and several links in the tourism value chain. The concept allows travelers to enrich their experience through meetings with farmers, cheese makers, breeders, winegrowers and other local producers to discover different types of food produced since Antiquity.

“Azerbaijan’s many strengths, including its favorable climate and natural resources, have enabled us to develop the Slow Food Travel concept here within the COVCHEG project. This is one of the very important steps of ATB towards building sustainable tourism in Azerbaijan. With the relevant stakeholders involved in the process, we will continue our work to develop exciting experiences in this direction ”, said Florian Sengstschmid, CEO of the Azerbaijan Tourist Board.

To make this experience accessible, a Slow Food Travel Map in Azerbaijan has been prepared, which shows local producers to meet, products to taste and places to visit across the country’s northwest road in Shamakhi, Ismayilli, Gabala, Sheki and Gakh. Each of these regions is famous for its rich historical and cultural heritage and breathtaking landscapes, as well as at least one product. There are now 60 Slow Food Travel partners who provide a wide range of services, from dining experiences available to accommodation options, on designated routes in Azerbaijan.

For more information on Slow Food in Azerbaijan and its results, please visit the website Slow Food – COVCHEG website.

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