Community-based landscape conservation in Azerbaijan
Published: 28 June 2019
Last edited: 01 October 2020
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The Eco-Corridor Fund for the Caucasus (ECF) is a funding instrument supporting community-based biodiversity conservation in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Eco-corridors are created by connecting various classifications of parks and protected areas across all three countries. ECF uses contractual nature conservation agreements and a clear set of processes to fund ecologically sustainable land use in specific regions and selected communities in Azerbaijan. The result is an interconnected mosaic of managed and unmanaged habitats under various land categories and classifications. These community-managed landscapes protect, connect and support healthy native ecosystems while ensuring the socio-economic status of the communities involved is not harmed or diminish, and in many cases is improved. ECF is a not-for profit, practical conservation organization funded by KfW Development Bank and WWF Germany.


West Asia, Middle East
Scale of implementation
Area-wide development
Connective infrastructure, networks and corridors
Forest ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
Rangeland / Pasture
River, stream
Temperate deciduous forest
Temperate evergreen forest
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Ecosystem services
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Land management
Local actors
Sustainable livelihoods
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Ecosystem loss
Invasive species
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Inefficient management of financial resources
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Physical resource extraction
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of technical capacity
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 15 – Life on land
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 18: Traditional knowledge
Target 20: Mobilizing resources from all sources
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with associations
Indirect through financial institutions
Indirect through government


Zaqatala District, Azerbaijan | Guba Region, Gakh Region, Shaki Region


Land-use management in Azerbaijan falls under the authority of multiple decision makers, classification systems and management approaches. With multiple stakeholders, agendas and land uses, biodiversity conservation becomes difficult to promote, monitor and maintain. Local dependence on the landscape for subsistence living results in limited environmental conservation awareness and consideration. Low average household incomes promote outmigration by younger demographics and also forces locals to seek livelihoods that place pressure on the ecosystem through unsustainable land-use like unsustainable forestry, illegal logging, poor pasture management and unregulated grazing causing both economic and environmental challenges. As a result, there are limited wild areas where native plant and animal species can exist naturally. Poaching, overhunting and human-wildlife conflicts further challenge biodiversity objectives. 


Gonaghkend Community (Gonaghkend Conservation Area), Parzivan Community (Parzivan Conservation Area), Khinaliq Community (Khinaliq Conservation Area), Meshlesh Community (Meshlesh Conservation Area), Cimcimax Community (Cimcimax Conservation Area)

How do the building blocks interact?

Each building block builds towards the signing of a Conservation Agreement (CA) and the accompanying 10-year habitat management plan. 

  • Identifying the priority conservation areas dictates the areas communities can participate in the Financial Participatory Approach (FPA).
  • Assessment of the readiness of each community is achieved through the Financial Participatory Approach (FPA) which is an inclusive and participatory tool designed to generate autonomous development strategies.
  • The establishment of community-based organizations (CBOs), which assist each community create a relationship with local NGO who will oversee the administrative aspects of a CA. 
  • Securing long term land-use rights for the community means that the local ranger program can provide ongoing wildlife monitoring, poaching prevention and coordinate sustainable land-use without the obstruction of land-use disputes. 
  • Signing a long-term Conservation Agreement puts to use all the data, research and community-strengthening practices from the previous steps and directs the community to reach the attainable and effective conservation objects. 


ECF is improving habitat connectivity in the Caucasus by combining local knowledge and community action with scientific data and modern land-use management practices.The creation of eco-corridors link parks and protected areas, contributing to the preservation of biodiversity inside and outside protected areas and across national borders. The “Financial Participatory Approach” is a community-based approach that works in parallel with landscape models. This process helps ECF identify communities that are ready to commit to conservation goals while simultaneously developing a trust-based relationship. This is the first step towards a “Conservation Agreement” and has positive, trickle-down effects that empower locals to become decision makers and stewards of natural resources while developing pride and protection for key species. Improved pastoral and agrarian productivity and financial incentives encourage the marriage of conservation and community well-being. “Conservation Agreements” reward and empower locals to preserve nature and local culture, leading to the creation of community-based conservation organizations and sustainable land-use plans that consider biodiversity as part of the local economy. Specific monitoring process are implemented, including assigning “Caretakers” who monitor/track wildlife movement and enforce anti-poaching laws. 


The Bash Kaldak community from the Shaki region of Azerbaijan used the financial incentive from ECF’s Financial Participatory Approach (FPA) for a project that incorporated both conservation objectives and community development.


This was a project the community came up with a developed without outside assistance and perfectly demonstrates the goals of the ECF programme; to give locals the training, education and decision-making power to participate in active landscape management without impeding local economics and traditional way of life.


The community used the FPA money to purchase an orchard of walnut trees which they planted on an eroding hillside near their village. The project plays a large role in forest management and prevents further land erosion. The long lifetime and wide root systems of walnut trees make them particularly useful for the purpose of long-term erosion prevention. The nuts they produce provide nutritious food for animals and humans in the area. The community self-organized themselves and distributed the responsibility of caring for each tree to different families within the village. Each family was responsible for watering and pruning of the tree, and in turn were able to harvest and sell the nuts, earning a small additional household income.


The Bash Kaldak community walnut grove also helps develop a positive, trust-based relationship between ECF and locals. This is a project that demonstrates how ECF’s FPA process can incorporate landscape management practices while simultaneously improving human livelihoods.

Contributed by

carmenekuntz_37122's picture

Carmen Kuntz Eco-Corridors Fund Caucasus, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), KfW Bankengruppe (KfW)

Other contributors

Eco-Corridors Fund for the Caucasus