With a great team, we built the biggest environmental non-profit organization in Azerbaijan
How did you come up with the idea of the NatureFriends Azerbaijan Youth Organization? And how does it work?
In 2005 I attended one of the study sessions of IYNF and learned about the Naturefriends movement and philosophy. Coming from an environmental science/management background and having been involved in tens of environmental projects I started with the Green Bikers Club. With a great team, we built the biggest environmental non-profit organization in Azerbaijan. So, we decided to expand and build an umbrella organization called Nature Friends – Azerbaijan, which later developed into 2 main Clubs under the NF-Azerbaijan called Green Bikers Club and Eco-Tour Club.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced (or you are facing) since setting up this no-profit organization?
It took us about 4 years to register our non-profit organization because of the difficulties of national and international non-governmental organizations faced during this period. But after the active participation of thousands of local community members and implementing several international projects Nature Friends was recognized by the government as a non-political organization which gave us green light from the local government to register the organization officially.
Which kind of reactions/feedback does the Organization receive?
In the first 5 years, it was not so welcomed by society especially from the conservative governmental institutions. But it was all about effort, time and the creative approach in all organizations’ steps.
Bringing environmental responsibility ideology among the young generation, sustainable tourism concepts to the government involving all National Parks all around the country was one of the successes of the NatureFriends
In your opinion, which role does the Organization play in Azerbaijan’s society and the life of young people?
Mainly, it positively contributes to raising environmental and public awareness. But also, after organizing 100s of outdoor activities, campaigns, summer and winter camps, birdwatching trips, bicycle actions, and bike tours other youth organizations started to implement thousands of bike actions and other outdoor educational events – most of them partnering with Nature Friends. So, after so many years we can now proudly say that Nature Friends are one of the pilot organizations who started the outdoor education movement and established a bicycle culture in a conservative-minded country.
Can you talk about the activities of the Organization during these years?
Mm that will be a very looong list ☺
NatureFriends was the first organization, that started the bicycle culture in the whole country
Can you share with us your experiences and motivation, highlights, or something cool or inspiring you experienced during activities?
One of the successes. I would like to highlight that NatureFriends was the first organization, that started the bicycle culture in the whole country, but most importantly by organizing bike actions for girls NF broke all stereotypes in a male-dominated country empowering women in our society.
At the same time bringing environmental responsibility ideology among the young generation, bringing sustainable tourism concepts to the government involving all National Parks all around the country was one of the successes of the Nature Friends.
We can now proudly say that NatureFriends is one of the pilot organizations, that started the outdoor education movement and established a bicycle culture in a conservative-minded country
Looking back at when you started the movement, is there something you would do differently?
Maybe I would start a self-sustaining business making long term independence of Nature Friends as Institution. Because for many years it is impossible for nonprofits to receive grants or support from international institutions.
What’s next for NatureFriends Azerbaijan?
Plan and build new strategies for Covid reality with a creative and innovative approach.
Elshan Nur (Founder of NatureFriends Azerbaijan)