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Story by Anna Karnaukh | Communications and PR Coordinator | Heifer Ukraine
Photos by Taras Onischenko | Manager of the Demo Farm and Oleg Emets | Specialist at Dnipropetrovsk Agricultural Advisory Service
Ukraine’s first cooperative learning farm officially opened November 6, 2012, as part of the implementation of a project that will help rural families improve their lives through modern farming.
The Co-operative Learning Farm and Services project aims to help more than 1,100 rural families from at least 18 villages in the Pokrovka and Apostolove regions of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast through modern farming methods and access to equipment and services through agricultural service cooperation.
Despite rainy weather, the event went smoothly and gathered plenty of visitors, including representatives of Heifer International and Heifer Ukraine, Danone Ukraine, the Canadian Agency for International Development (CIDA/SOCODEVI), the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast Council and Dnipropetrovsk Agricultural Advisory Service. All guests visited the newly built hangar at the learning farm, where they saw equipment and technological processes for dairy cow milking, feeding, keeping and reproduction. The group heard presentations on project implementation and participated in discussions on prospects for further development. They visited two family-type mini-farms and spoke with smallholder co-op members.
“Together with local governments, Danone, SOCODEVI, CIDA, ICO Community Wellbeing, and Heifer Ukraine, lives are being transformed in ways never thought possible,“ said Cindy Jones-Nyland, executive vice president of Marketing and Resource Development at Heifer International. “Collectively the project will revive the smallholder farm development in this region.”
The partners based this new project on achievements from several initiatives in the development of cooperatives in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast that had already been implemented. The recently established Hospodar Union of agricultural service cooperatives founded an agricultural enterprise called Molocharske, which specializes in milk production using modern technologies and mechanization. Heifer Ukraine purchased 60 highly productive Holstein heifers in Austria for the new farm, and more than half of them have started giving milk. Sixty more will be purchased for the next hangar, which will be built by summer 2013.
“This important strategic initiative with its growing number of public-private partnerships, which we are going to replicate in other rural communities of Ukraine, became possible due to implementation of the innovative project that supports cooperation and scaling up of smallholders through development of effective farming practices and pro-small producer value-added chains," said Viktor Teres, country director for Heifer Ukraine.
The new farm is equipped with fodder preparation facilities, including a silage packing machine, combine harvesters, five tractors, a baler and mowing machines. This equipment will be used not only for the farm’s needs, but also by co-op members in cultivation, silage and concentrated fodder preparation activities. A training room will operate on the farm to help teach co-op members about producing high-quality milk and other effective farming methods.
Steve Denne, chief operating officer at Heifer International, kept an eye on the reports he received during the construction of the farm. He said, “Seeing it for myself for the first time I am impressed by the results and by the work done. This farm is not only a good example for the entire country but also a model for multiplying experience widely in other countries.”
Some of the co-op members have improved conditions for their animals by fixing existing sheds or building new hangars; installing improved lighting, automatic watering and ventilation systems in the cow sheds; setting up a manure evacuation and composting system; and using milking machines at their micro family farms.
“Our integrated goal is to make farming in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast effective and competitive, create new jobs, improve social infrastructure in villages, and provide local, national and even international consumers with agricultural produce from Dnipropetrovsk region through modernization of the region’s agrarian sector," said Yevhen Udod, head of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast Council.
The co-op learning farm was founded and will be managed by the union of cooperatives with members who are rural smallholder farmers. Besides the promotion of cooperation, this project will strengthen co-op members’ households through a microcredit program.
At the end of the ceremony, guests planted trees on the farm as a symbol of future prosperity, growth and success.
“I’m impressed by what I saw today," said Dario Marchetti, general manager at Danone Ukraine, a project partner. “I hope that this project will become an example of a learning center. I also hope that this unique practice will be multiplied in Ukraine and there will be 10, 15, 20 such farms. We will work on establishing family-type farms with five to 10 cows in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast (this dairy-farm size allows for obtaining a profit). And we truly believe that such form of farming will become the future of the milk sector in the whole Ukraine.”
This project is being implemented by several partner organizations, including Danone-Ukraine, Heifer Ukraine and Dnipropetrovsk Agricultural Advisory Service, and is supported by the Danone Ecosystem Fund, Heifer International, CIDA and local authorities from Dnipropetrovsk.