Azerbaijan Farmer to Farmer Program (F2F)
Using Volunteers’ Expertise to Improve Agribusiness Operations in Azerbaijan
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan faced many rapid changes in political and economic life. The transformation from the Soviet centrally managed economy to a market-oriented economy created challenges, particularly in agriculture when farms and farmlands were rapidly privatized. Agriculture is a vital component of Azerbaijan’s economy, making up 22 percent of the country’s GDP. However, farmers did not have the planning and management skills necessary to cope in an open market. Most were unable to compete with the modern technology of food-exporter countries such as Turkey, Germany, and France.
To help smallholders faced with this situation, ACDI/VOCA implemented the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program in Azerbaijan. F2F facilitated people-to-people learning and was designed to improve farm and agribusiness operations and agricultural systems, including increasing production of livestock, field crops, fruits, and vegetables. F2F also worked to develop food processing, packaging, product marketing, and rural credit capacity. The program increased the sustainability of private agricultural enterprises, agricultural support organizations, and rural credit institutions by bringing highly qualified volunteers from the U.S. to Azerbaijan for short-term assignments. These volunteers provided needed insight into business strategy, processing, marketing, product diversity, technology transfer, quality control, and rural credit.
F2F Azerbaijan completed over 80 volunteer assignments providing various forms of technical assistance. Through the F2F program, ACDI/VOCA identified the most important obstacles in various subsectors and designed two- to three-week technical assistance projects to help farmers and agribusinesses overcome these obstacles. F2F worked in close coordination with other actors in the field, including local private and nonprofit agricultural support organizations, rural finance institutions, and USAID- and non-USAID-funded development projects. In addition, F2F kept close contacts with its alumni farmers to understand the current trends and needs in the subsectors.
Where possible, F2F applied ACDI/VOCA’s market chain philosophy and approach in developing agriculture. For example, if a need was identified for technical assistance in wheat cultivation, F2F fielded a volunteer oriented to the farmers’ current and potential clients, such as bakeries and feed mills, as well as input providers. Another successful F2F approach was working with a group of farmers representing a particular subsector. Volunteer assignments were carried out with beekeepers, greenhouse owners, and vegetable and dairy-processing plants.
When F2F started working in Azerbaijan, Latif Ginyetoglu was one of the first farmers to host F2F volunteers. With their help, Ginyetoglu made significant progress in developing his beekeeping business. His production grew from 23 beehives and 15 kg of harvested honey to 300 beehives and 12 MT of honey. His small beekeeping enterprise grew into a successful business earning $120,000 from its honey sales and employing 13 permanent employees. Ginyetoglu credited ACDI/VOCA technical assistance with helping his business grow.