Feature Story

Hands-on husbandry: Training the next generation of vocational scientists in Azerbaijan

April 21, 2018

Mountains of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan's pasturelands have been experiencing human-caused degradation and negative climate impacts. A GEF-funded, UNDP-implemented project is providing education in animal husbandry to improve local livelihoods and ensure healthy ecosystems.

The mountainous pasturelands of Azerbaijan form part of the Greater Caucasus mountain range and offer great beauty and great potential.

With more than 40% of the country’s population currently engaged in the agricultural sector ensuring the health of the pasturelands, and the animals that graze on these lands, would allow Azerbaijan to realize that potential.

Recently, these pasturelands have been experiencing human-caused degradation and negative climate impacts.

Additionally, animal husbandry - the science of breeding and caring for farm animals – was not being taught at vocational education schools and there were no certified specialists in this field.

Noting the mismatched labour market demand and specialised workforce supply of people trained in animal husbandry, the GEF-funded Sustainable Land and Forest Management in the Greater Caucasus landscape (SLFM) project partnered with the EU-funded Clima East Pilot Project in Azerbaijan to develop new and updated curricula.

The SLFM project works with the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources for project implementation, and also co-operated with the Ministry of Education to create this ‘pasture curricula’.

For the pasture curricula, the training programme covers two full study years, or four semesters.

Altogether, 13 modules were developed on climate and environment, botany, animal selection and reproduction, plant protection methods, farm economy, sheep farming, animal feed production, grassland and pasturelands

“We achieved great academic results and I particularly appreciate the fact that the modules we used throughout the academic year have been developed based on the European –and more broadly – international best experience.” Atabala Mahammadli, one of the recent graduates of the new livestock specialization.

Out of the total of 60 students who have completed their studies at the Gabala VET, 20 students received diplomas in animal husbandry, 20 specialised in crop production and the other 20 in agro-service.

For each of the 13 modules, 350 copies were printed and circulated at the Gabala VET school library, totalling 4,550 hard-copy modules available to students.

In the long run, the programme’s activities are working to ensure that all students who graduated from VET are now equipped with an animal husbandry knowledge toolkit which will improve their financial and economic wellbeing.

Further research can help identify long-term progress in this area. Individuals who learned animal husbandry specifics, even those who did not immediately gain local employment, now execute the knowledge and practices they learned during their further studies or in subsistence animal husbandry activities.

Animal husbandry is the major source of income for most of the vulnerable population groups living in the high-mountain and remote villages of the Gabala and Ismayilli regions, and the knowledge and skills the project beneficiaries obtained from these courses are in high demand.

The project’s overall objective is sustainable land and forest management in the Greater Caucasus Landscape. Working to secure the flow of multiple ecosystem services, including carbon storage and sequestration and water provisioning services, while ensuring ecosystem resilience to climate change.

Much of the early work to decrease impacts on natural resources, particularly pasture and forest ecosystems, has focussed on altering particular scientific and technical behaviour through the application of standards of practice.

This will help people to protect the ecosystems they steward today and use it sustainably for many years to come.

Investing in vocational education directly increases the effectiveness of local knowledge on the use of natural resources, and will have a multiplier effect to protect the soil cover and productivity of mountain ecosystems.

Ultimately, animal husbandry practitioners in Azerbaijan’s high altitude pasturelands have gained better access to information – including best practices internationally - thereby minimising expenses and managing their own livelihoods in a profitable, sustainable way.

The pastureland curriculum development is part of a larger project on promoting environmentally conscious decisions and behaviours in agricultural settings through the sustainable use of land and forest resources. As a result, Azerbaijan is now able to use updated methodologies for assessing forest and pasture carbon pools, while 20,000 hectares of forests and 7,924 hectares of pastures are now under sustainable forest and land management practices with UNDP’s support.

In addition, 170ha of forests were planted to increase carbon sequestration. The project also developed district-based pasture management plans and 23 farm-based management plans in the selected Ismailli and Shamakhi pilot regions. These programmatic activities dovetailed with recent Government of Azerbaijan policy based on ‘Strategic Road Maps’ which diversify the economy and emphasise human capital development and mitigate the country’s previous economic dependence on fossil fuels.

For more information, view the project profiles for the Sustainable Land and Forest Management in the Greater Caucasus landscape and the Clima East Pilot Project in Azerbaijan.

FOOTNOTES: Story by Arzu Jafarli, Zaur Aliyev, Eltekin Omarov, Andrea Egan / Photos: UNDP Azerbaijan

This story was originally publshed by UNDP