The irregular economic migration from rural regions in Azerbaijan including Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic driven by a lack of access to potable and irrigation water induced IOM to design and implement projects for the renovation of traditional underground water systems called kahriz. These water systems are proven to be sustainable and eco-friendly and require no external energy to be operated. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has been supporting IOM in its efforts to rehabilitate these traditional water systems through different project interventions since July 2001. IOM during these years has gathered a lot of experience and technical expertise on the renovation of these systems. 

Beginning in September 2004 IOM began to implement a three-year project, the Community-Owned Sustainable Water Use and Agricultural Initiatives (COSWA) project in Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (NAR) and in the western regions of Azerbaijan; namely Goranboy, Khanlar, Samukh, Shamkir, Tovuz. The aim of the project is to improve prospects for rural livelihoods by providing potable water for communities and irrigation water for subsistence agriculture. 

Upon the completion of the project, a total of 18 kahrizes will be renovated and handed over to the communities. Particular attention has been given on gender equity, formation of legal basis on the ownership, use and protection of the water systems, developing opportunities in awareness raising among the authorities and public, and training specialists in kahriz construction. 

During the project implementation 65 young people have received comprehensive training on kahriz engineering and construction, who were certified as kahriz constructors or ‘kankans’ and provided with jobs; 99 potentially recoverable kahrizes in Azerbaijan have been mapped; a documentary movie that covers historical and architectural elements, socio-economic impacts, technology and its preservation, security and safety rules/measures has been prepared; a handbook called the ‘Kankan Memory Book’ and ‘Kahriz Calls’ brochure were published and disseminated among all stakeholders. 

Kahriz Resource Center (KRC) in Nakhchivan city was established on 1 November 2006. The KRC is currently engaged in the mapping of kahrizes, collection and compilation of information and resource materials on the kahriz systems. It is planned to further enhance the capacity of the KRC to expand its scope for popularization of the kahriz among young generation and be engaged in the introduction of technologies, developing the training facilities, etc. 

Experience sharing workshops on “Renovation of Kahriz Water Systems in Azerbaijan: Experiences, Best Practices and Perspectives” in Nakhchivan and Baku were organized respectively on November 23, 2006 and June 14, 2007. The workshops pursued consolidation of experiences, lessons learnt and best practices accumulated during the implementation of environmentally sustainable and energy efficient water projects in Azerbaijan. They facilitated sharing of the accumulated experiences and acted as a venue for extended dialogue on the potentials of chaheriz water systems for possible expansion to other regions of Azerbaijan. Stakeholders and other participants of the workshop discussed new ideas and models that could be adapted and replicated for the renovation and sustainable management of water resources in potential communities.