On 1 December 2018, a meeting was held with selected families within the framework of the project to support the development of small-scale households in Shaki-Zagatala economic region through the Balakan ABAD regional centre.
Chairman of the State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ulvi Mehdiyev, head of Balaken Region Executive Authority Islam Rzayev, head of the EU Delegation to the Republic of Azerbaijan Kestutis Jankauskas, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations Development Program in Azerbaijan Gulam Isakzai and many other guests attended the event.
The project being implemented in close collaboration with the ABAD Public Legal Entity of the State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations enhances local capacity-building in rural communities of Azerbaijan. It also offers operational support to the ABAD regional centre in Balakan aiming that the centre will further help the families, which meet the project eligibility criteria, with business development and planning, branding and design, financial accounting and legal assistance services.
Since the launch of this collaboration, the project has identified 44 target families, which have the potential to grow into successful business models. While initially aiming to establish only 30 smallholder family businesses in the course of three years of the project lifespan, this number has quickly grown to 44 within just the first year of the implementation phase. In keeping with the pledge to ‘leave no one behind’, the EU, UNDP and the Government of Azerbaijan ensure that the most vulnerable segments of society can also benefit from this initiative. As such, 23 out of 44 select families in the Shaki-Zaqatala region are women-led businesses, while 12 families are chosen from the IDP community who once lost their homes to war more than 25 years ago. Up to the present, select smallholder families have received extensive capacity building and training in financial management, business development, international trading and commerce, gender equality in small and medium-sized enterprises, corporate social responsibility, logistics and packaging, among many more.
As of now, 22 families have already received essential procurement and equipment support and are ready to move forward with production and manufacturing plans in their respective areas of business. The family businesses specialise in a broad array of industries. They range from the traditional art of authentic carpet weaving nurtured by Karabakh artisans in Balakan’s IDP community, to sustainably-produced, hormone-free ice-cream made of organic whole milk. In recent years, Balakan has been growing in popularity also as the paradise of persimmon –nutrient fruit rich in vitamins and one of the country’s top export products nationwide, for more than a century. Tapping on the growing market demand for locally produced fruit, many family businesses will specialise in fruit manufacturing and the production of dried persimmons. Others choose to pursue their business in chicken and pheasant breeding and mushroom cultivation in greenhouses.
The development work in the Shaki-Zaqatala economic region of Azerbaijan is part of a three-year grant project, which aims to boost entrepreneurship and job creation in this region. With an emphasis placed on productive and meaningful employment for both women and men as well as vulnerable social groups, these collective efforts largely contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals and, specifically, to Global Goal 8, which promotes decent work and economic growth for all.
The project is funded by the European Union, ABAD and the United Nations Development Programme, bringing collectively a generous amount of USD 1,074,000, with the EU’s share of support constituting USD 967,000 combined with USD 57,000 from UNDP and an additional USD 50,000 from the Government of Azerbaijan.
Opening the event, the head of Balaken Region Executive Authority, Islam Rzayev expressed his satisfaction with the fact that the relevant project is included in the scope of the Balakan region. He said that this project, covering 6 administrative regions, plays an important role in increasing the employment and development potential of the region's residents.
Head of the EU Delegation to the Republic of Azerbaijan, Kestutis Jankauskas, thanked all the partners who contributed to the project.
Executive partner of the project, UN Resident Coordinator in Azerbaijan, Gulam Isakzai, noted that the project is of great importance not only to supporting small-scale family businesses, but also to providing vocational education for citizens.
The Chairman of the State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ulvi Mehdiyev, spoke about the goals, activities of the ABAD and the positive results of cooperation in the international sphere. It was noted that the project implemented in Shaki-Zagatala economic region, in turn, is one of the favorable opportunities opened up for residents of these regions to obtain additional income sources.
Following the official part of the event, the delegation and event participants listened to the presentation of the project, familiarized themselves with the ABAD beneficiaries and the conditions created for them.