Over the past year, the IDG staff working with the USAID Azerbaijan Competitiveness and Trade (ACT) Project, have helped to convince over 100 farmres to adopt a complete renovation strategy for their orchards. "Since I became a part of the USAID Azerbaijan Competitiveness and Trade Project," said one local expert, "I have witnessed somewhat of a revolution in pomegranate orchard management practices in the Goychay and Kurdemir regions. It has been only a year since we first introduced the new orchard techniques, but we can already see the difference. We are expecting increased productivity from once abandoned orchards. The main challenge the farmers faced was that they were given the land, but not the skills. Lack of any training or previous technical assistance on managing pomegranate orchards prevented them from properly maintaining the orchard to yield the highest production. So when our Project initially met with the farmers, they eagerly started implementing new techniques including pruning, fertilization and pesticide use that would enhance production. So when our Project initially met with the farmers, they eagerly started implementing new techniques including pruning, fertilization, and pesticide use that would enhance production."
As part of this strategy, the Project's technical experts support farmers inoverhauling abandoned orchards using international best practices and on-site demonstrations. As part of the new strategy, they conduct very heavy pruning, turn over the ground between rows, improv e irrigation, commit to orchard maintenance, and plant new saplings between heavily pruned trees to provide for an intensive style of production.
As a result of training and technical assistance on Good Agricultural Practices provided by the ACT Project to pomegranate growers to increase pomegranate production, about 150 hectares of pomegranate orchards have been completely renovated in the Goychay and Kurdamir regions. Acccordingly, the productivitiy is expected to increase up to 2-3 times that of last year, 2012: the expected yield for 2013 is 2.5-3 tons, while the 2012 yield was 1.5 tons. Proper application of Integrated Pest Management practicesplays an important role in improving the quality of pomegranates in the local orchards. The pomegranate farmers have suffered a crop loss of about 60% in recent years. Farmers were forced to sell their damaged/blemished products at a compromised price, which was signiciantly lower than competitive market price - resulting in the loss of potential income and farmers ending up with damanged products. However, the farmers who attended trainings on Good Agricultural Practices could reduce their losses by 20-25%. The pomegranate growers are attending the ACT Project trainings enthusiastically, and credit the project's assistance in increasing the productivity of their orchads and improving their social welfare.
Vidadi R., owner of one of the pomegranate orchards that the Project has been working with said in regards to the Project's trainings and activities,"These trainings conducted by the USAID ACT Project were something absolutely new to us. We had never before received trianing on such an important topic. This was somewhat of a pilot enlightenment initiative for pomegranate farmers in the region. Now with the new approach, we expect our productivity to increase to 3-4 tons per hectare."When fully productive in three to five years, the orchards will produce several times more pomegranates per hectare than the quasi-abandoned style they had previously used. Already the progress is visible.