The EU-financed project COVCHEG (Community-based Value Chain Enhancement in the Greater Caucasus Mountains area) valorizes local gastronomy and cultural heritage, aiming to foster economic regeneration and the well-being of rural communities in Azerbaijan.
The pilot area includes five mountains districts in the north-west: Shamakhi, Ismaili, Gabala, Shaki and Qakh.
In these territories the project implies two main intervention sectors, agriculture and gastronomic tourism. The main project activities are:
Project activities will not only advance knowledge and skills of beneficiaries but will result in specific food chain development model and tourism products and practices of the pilot districts, and, in overall, will serve as model for further multiplication nation-widely. In longer term it will positively influence the state of natural resources and social environment, decrease levels of unemployment and out-migration as well as strengthen resilience of the territories.
In December, the project launches Cooks Alliance in Azerbaijan!
Cooks Alliance is a network of cooks defending food biodiversity across the world. Cooks are among the best interpreters of their local area and can add value to local products with skill and creativity, giving prominence to the Ark of Taste, Presidia and small-scale food producers.
8 cooks are joining the international Alliance. They commit to defending food biodiversity and traditional gastronomic knowledge of Azerbaijan.
This is what they say about their new adventure:
Conservation of biodiversity is a guarantee of our future. Food biodiversity begins in the soil and ends at the table. As a chef, I try to be mindful of the impact of the food on the environment as well as its flavor and quality when designing a menu. To achieve it, I prefer organic food to processed food with chemical additives; products obtained directly and indirectly from local producers to imported products. In the meantime of pandemic and natural disasters, safeguarding biodiversity is the responsibility of not only cooks but also every food producer and consumer.
Chef Orkhan Mukhtarov
Farhad Ashurbeyli, food blogger and coordinator of the Alliance in Azerbaijan, adds:
Although the term ‘Slow Food’ is a new concept unknown to many in Azerbaijan, we have remained faithful to its philosophy for centuries, and most regions of Azerbaijan still adhere to it. Life in our beautiful Baku, like many metropolises in the world, is crowded and fast. I try to reflect the natural and slow elements of rural life in the hasty urban life with the help of good, clean and fair food. To accomplish it, I regularly add the Ark of Taste products to my personal and professional menu, build friendships and cooperation with the local Presidia producers, as well as take an active role in revealing and promoting the potential of gastro tourism in Azerbaijan.