Мodibo Traoré

Assistant Director-General

Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection


With admiration, this book is dedicated to the people of the Southern Caucasus, and to the wealth of genetic resources resulting from their inspiration and work over the centuries. In managing their natural resources, these people have made an outstanding contribution to maintaining biodiversity and, as a consequence, to global food security.

The Southern Caucasus region was paramount in the evolution and differentiation of various domesticated plant and animal species; moreover, the region saw the beginnings of farmers’ and pastoralists’ settlements in the early stages of agriculture. Throughout the ages, the region was home to many populations who learned how to make a living out of a rugged land, by developing skills and locally adapting techniques – such as selecting a wide range of crop varieties, livestock breeds and integrated crop-livestock systems – to adapt to cold winters, dry summers, pests, diseases and the introduction of alien species.

The valued genetic resources and variety of agricultural practices (from production to preservation) in family gardens support year-round household food security. Together, these ensure yields over the longer term, and contribute to sustainable agricultural production intensification, farmers’ livelihoods, healthy and diversified diets, healthy ecosystems and sociocultural stability.

Yet this sustainability, achieved through agricultural practices based on the conservation and sustainable use of local genetic resources in the Southern Caucasus, is at risk of being lost. Over the last few decades, changing biophysical and socio-economic pressures have increased risks from poor management of natural resources, loss of biodiversity, soil and water pollution and degradation, and vulnerability to climate change.

This book describes selected genetic resources and traditional management practices maintained by farmers and pastoralists in the gardens and landscapes of the Southern Caucasus, showing that understanding and building on local traditions can help these to be valued, and also help to capitalize on what they have to offer. A close, detailed study of local agro-ecological and social conditions can contribute to identifying solutions for global problems; in short, it is possible to build on the knowledge and selection of the best genetic resources and local practices combined with efficient technologies and science to transform and increase options for agriculture in the Southern Caucasus towards sustainable development.

The genetic material treasured in the Southern Caucasus is essential for the achievement of Millennium Development Goals 1 and 7 in the region and for the entire world; collective efforts need to be made to preserve and use it.

Special thanks must be given to the many Armenian, Azeri and Georgian contributors to the book. The  material they have collected, as well as that collected by the authors, was so extensive and rich that the editors have had the uneasy task of making a rigid selection – as diversified and as balanced as possible – of the many examples of plant and animal genetic resources that farmers and pastoralists have maintained, and of their traditional management practices. Additional and more detailed information on each subject can be found in the bibliography at the end of each chapter and at the following link:

Thanks must also be given to the FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, the FAO Subregional Office for Central Asia, the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the Government of Switzerland for their generous support to this book, as one of FAO’s contributions to the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity.

We would further like to acknowledge the work, guidance and support of Shivaji Pandey, Director, FAO Plant Production and Protection Division; Fernanda Guerrieri, Assistant Director‑General and Regional Representative for the FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia; Mustapha Sinaceur, Subregional Coordinator of the FAO Subregional Office for Central Asia; Dan Leskien, Senior Liaison Officer, FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture; Shakeel Bhatti, Secretary of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture; Hans‑Jorg Lehmann, Swiss Permanent Representative to FAO, IFAD and WFP, and the many FAO colleagues whose names are reported as contributors.