First fruits from Ukraine project
Horticulture program will reach out to 5,000 small farmers in five years.by Linda Whitmore of Mennonite Economic Development Associates
Take one part excellent soil, mix with one great climate, lots of sweat equity and no small measure of Mennonite agricultural innovation, and Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) has a recipe for success in helping small farmers in Ukraine grow their businesses.
Vera Morozova (left) and her daughter Oksana present a sample of Vera’s strawberry crop for MEDA board members to sample. Photo by Howard Good.
MEDA president Allan Sauder led his board of directors in June on a tour of the $10 million Ukraine Horticulture Development Project (UHDP), a five-year program supported by the Canadian International Development Agency and MEDA.
For some board members who trace their roots to the old Mennonite colonies, it was a homecoming of a sort, as they toured historical sites in the Zaporizhzhia and Chortitza area and the Mennonite Center in Molochansk.
But the highlights of the tour were meeting with some of the 1,500 UHDP clients who are beginning not only to taste the fruits of their labors but also relish the fruits of the spirit in the form of new hope for a brighter future.
One of them was Vera Morozova, who farms strawberries and onions on 17 hectares (42 acres) of rented land near Melitopol. Morozova, a former civil servant, was at first leery of the agronomist offering help. But now she is happy to have access to expert knowledge and credit and to be part of a system of clusters of farmers tapping into economies of scale, modern production technologies and larger, more lucrative markets.
Morozova is one of 10 farmers working as a group and learning from each other. She also consolidates the group’s produce for sale. Over time, she'd like to try better varieties of plants, but for the moment, she says, she is content.
"I am providing employment to 30 seasonal workers, and my land is being used and loved," she says.
Over five years, UHDP will reach out to 5,000 small farmers like Morozova, increasing their incomes and helping return this historical breadbasket of Europe to its former glory. The week-long tour in early June ended with board meetings to approve MEDA's plans for the upcoming year.
"We as a board were inspired by the opportunity to meet our staff in the Ukraine," says board chair Allon Lefever, "and feel very motivated to continue MEDA's work as we observed the impact MEDA is having with small holder farmers in the Ukraine.
"We're anticipating an exciting year of tremendous growth in the double digits, with $42 million in revenue from projects in 45 countries," he says. "But more important, we are aiming to help alleviate poverty for almost 10 million families around the world."
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