Agriculture is at the center of life for families of the Khaspoladoba community of the Khachmaz rayon in Azerbaijan. Growing primarily hazelnuts, the approximately 50 farmers from Khaspoladoba own and cultivate 75 hectares of hazelnut orchards. For 85-year old farmer, Yadigar Maharramov, a father of eight children, selling hazelnuts from his one-hectare orchard is his family’s main source of income. Sadly, water shortages and lack of access to irrigation water had severely limited his crop productivity. Like Mr. Maharramov, all of the farmers in the Khaspoladoba community were in desperate need of irrigation water for their land. Looking for solutions, the community members sought support from USAID’s Agricultural Support to Azerbaijan Project (ASAP) and EWMI’s USAID-funded Socio-Economic Development Activity (SEDA). Implemented by EWMI, with support from the Azerbaijani government, SEDA promotes cooperation between citizens, civil society organizations, and government to advance socio-economic development and improve the quality of life in rural areas.
In 2018, EWMI began work with the Khasploadoba community to establish and elect members to a Community Development Council (CDC) that would be able engage with all villagers to assess the socio-economic needs of the community. CDC members received training to better identify solutions to address these needs, develop proposals for community-driven socio-economic projects that EWMI could support through SEDA, and engage municipal officials in supporting their proposed project. After interviewing 140 community members, the Khasploadoba CDC identified the lack of irrigation water as the community’s most urgent need. While USAID's ASAP helped the farmers in the Khaspoladoba community apply more modern techniques in growing hazelnuts, EWMI coordinated with ASAP to support the drilling of two artesian wells that would feed the irrigation canals in the hazelnut orchards. Community members willingly contributed 25% of total cost of the project.
Completed on March 1, 2019, the project’s launch turned into a day of festivities for the farmers. They are now able to irrigate their hazelnuts orchards by using the water from the new artesian wells. Having sufficient irrigation water available close by will increase the productivity of hazelnut trees and other fruit orchards, increasing income for local farmers. When asked about the new wells and irrigation system, Yadigar Maharramov stated that he is confident that he will have double the hazelnut production during the next season. "I have not been able to water my orchard for 26 years. Thanks to SEDA and ASAP that helped us to solve this problem. Now our lands are more abundant and our opportunities will be greater. Water is life, so this project has given us a life."