Eighty percent of Ukraine’s milk production comes from small farmers, yet the number of small farmers is steadily declining. Danone Ukraine and Heifer Ukraine launched the Milk Communities Project to strengthen small dairy producers so they can compete and even thrive in the marketplace.
Members of Marfusha Cooperative live in Novomykolaivka village and are active participants of the Milk Communities Project. The co-op’s 60 members collect more than three tons of milk each day and share their knowledge with their neighbors through the well-attended trainings they coordinate.
The establishment of improved family farms that can improve incomes and become training tools for other farmers is a major Milk Communities Project activity. Families interested in reconstructing their farms for this purpose must meet a series of criteria. First, they must belong to and sell a minimum amount of milk through the co-op. They should have enough available land and resources to grow sufficient fodder for livestock. Finally, they must be willing to host fellow farmers and share their knowledge during study visits.
Many farmers applied to have their farms reconstructed, but only 30 percent were ultimately selected to participate. Five of these families came from Marfusha Co-op.
As soon as reconstruction was complete, the family farms were outfitted with agricultural equipment such as drinking bowls, milking machines, and ventilation and climate control systems.
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On June 30, 2014, after two months of work, Mykola and Anna Kutsenko’s farm became the first family farm in the Marfusha co-op to open. The Kutsenkos new farm can now accommodate up to 10 cows.
“The family farm offers new horizons for our family,” Anna Kutsenko said. “We are going to sell more milk through the co-op and get more income. The best part is that we are going to be able to gain knowledge and share it with others.”
When the community first heard the plan to establish improved family farms, several residents were not convinced that it was a worthwhile project. However, after seeing the Kutsenkos’ new farm, they were thrilled and could see endless possibilities for success.
Residents of Novomykolaivka village are grateful for the opportunities provided by the Milk Communities Project. “Family farms are the most efficient means of livestock keeping available to rural people,” Yuriy Yrchyk, head of the village council, explained. “We are very grateful to Heifer Ukraine, Danone and Dnipropetrovsk extension service for initiating this program and helping families.”
Through the Milk Communities Project, people are able to gain advanced knowledge and skills to expand their economic opportunities, increase milk production, obtain more profit and live better lives. This not only makes the village members stronger, but also helps the community to become more sustainable.
Stories and Photos courtesy of Heifer Ukraine