In Quazanli, a small town in Azerbaijan’s conflict-affected Agdam region, 10,000 out of the 14,000 residents are internally displaced. Forced to leave their homes almost 20 years ago, these people live today in temporary, deteriorated housing: many families have just a single room for eating, living, and sleeping, and often share a bathroom and kitchen facilities with up to twelve other families.
The make-shift buildings, none of which were originally intended for housing, have limited access to electricity and gas, are poorly insulated, and have accumulated mold and moisture throughout the years.
While such poor housing conditions are a major challenge for internally displaced people in Quazanli, they are mostly concerned with finding a reliable source of income and gaining a better livelihood. Many individuals came from areas of the country where livestock-rearing is the main source of livelihood, and they yearn to be able to return to their former occupations.
Some families have even been able to save and buy some livestock that provides them with milk and cheese, but the lack of financing has made it impossible for most to buy more than a single cow. Without the opportunity to breed the animals, these families have not been able to significantly improve their situation. A single cow provides only the most meager source of income, and this income could disappear in an instant if the cow became ill.
In 2013, a dozen community members from Quazanli applied to the Azerbaijan IDP Living Standards and Livelihoods Project to participate in an income-generation program. This program, aimed at improving living conditions and increasing the economic self-reliance of IDPs, helps to create community income generation groups that receive intensive support to identify and start up small-scale businesses.
Businesses are varied in nature but usually build on the skills that IDPs brought from their communities of origin, including cattle husbandry, sheep rearing, and crop production. The project has also financed the opening of bakeries, retail shops, catering businesses and cafés.