While Azerbaijan remains a high profile country due to it's oil reserves, the majority of the country remains impoverished by decades of corruption and governmental neglect. With Nagorno-Karabakh still looming large as a potentially violent situation, the aftermath of the previous uprisings have left the northwestern part of Azerbaijan in abject poverty. In Ganja, where I spent 2 weeks in 2001-2002 over the new year, I met dozens of IDPs, or internally displaced people, who were once living in the Azeri regions of Armenia. They live without electricity, heat or running water in hovels that look like haystacks and subside on farming and trade.
ACDI/VOCA has aided through small scale capital investments to help IDPs purchase basic equipment for local industry. These small scale CERGs, or community economic recovery groups, have been pivotal in improving the quality of life for hundreds of local people.
While it seemed like an oxymoron to talk about market research, I felt that I was able to give them a sense of organization and structure that they would ultimately be able to use as the local economy develops. Time management and setting priorities for their business development, understanding markets beyond their immediate villages and focusing on their unique selling proposition were key elements of the trainings I conducted.
Community Economic Recovery Groups (CERG)
and Market Research