Vadym Svietlov and his partner Anna are proud owners of a small grain farm near Sumy, a large town in Ukraine’s north-east. The region established itself as an agricultural hub in the 19th century, starting with large-scale sugar beet production, followed by a wide range of crops ever since.
The young couple took over the farm from Vadym’s parents five years ago and they are determined to grow their business.
“We want to build a better future – for us and Ukraine. Boosting our agricultural production is key to achieving this,” said Mr Svietlov.
But it wasn’t smooth sailing for them. He explained that he needed to replace outdated equipment and gain new knowledge of farming methods: conserving water, using satellite navigation and finding a profitable niche in the market.
Ukraine has the potential to feed much more of the world's growing population. The EBRD is working with FAO and the Central European Initiative to mobilise the private sector and help the country's farmers increase their skills and knowledge of best practices.
Practical training sessions
To support farmers like him, the EBRD and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) teamed up with private sector companies and academic experts to spread knowledge on sustainable farming.
The technical cooperation project focuses on providing training for grain farmers in Ukraine and is supported by funding from the Central European Initiative.
The training combined theory and practice: it included several classes at Sumy National Agrarian University as well as field visits to experimental farms, seed companies and research institutes.
“For Ukraine, agriculture is not only important to produce food, but also to develop our rural areas,” said Professor Volodymyr Ladyka, Rector of Sumy National Agrarian University.
“The project provides farmers with the necessary technological skills and know-how of fertiliser use, crop protection and economic efficiency.”
Offering distance learning was extremely important, too, he added. This helped farmers study even during the busy farming period, according to their own schedule.
Mr Svietlov is one of several hundred farm managers and owners who participated in these activities, in person or online. He also participated in a practical field training course in France to see first-hand how farmers apply best practices there.
Back in Sumy, this has had a tangible impact on his work.
“We updated our farming techniques and also looked into new crops,” he said. “I started to plant spelt on my farm, which is a very popular and profitable crop, especially on the European market.”
Feeding the world
Agriculture brings Sumy and its surrounding villages to life – and also students from around the country. The impact, however, expands far across Ukraine. The world’s population continues to grow and so does the need to provide everyone with food.
“With its rich and fertile soil Ukraine has every reason to call itself Europe’s breadbasket,” said Victoria Zinchuk, Acting Head of Agribusiness at the EBRD.
“Our goal, together with FAO, is to empower the private sector and maximise Ukraine’s potential to feed the world’s growing population. This can be achieved only through well-coordinated efforts between private, public sector and academia.
“Investments in a qualified workforce, research and technology will be key to ensure that potential is realised.”
“While grain farms are usually big in Ukraine, this training permitted small and medium farmers to learn about new farming technologies, farm management and marketing,” said Mohamed Manssouri, Service Chief at FAO’s Investment Centre.
“Obviously, this helped farmers better adapt to their market and economic environment and attract more investments in the future.”
At his farm, Mr Svietlov is already starting to prepare his business for the next season: talking to potential suppliers and buyers, planning the crops he will offer and applying his new knowledge.
Good organisation and dedication are vital to his business – and they will help him reap the rewards of the training and his hard work.