I chose to do research on poverty and hunger with farmers and citizens of villages in Ukraine. Poverty in Ukraine is a huge problem, as Ukraine is the second poorest country in Europe. The average income is 3,560 USD and sixty percent of the population falls below the poverty line. One third of the population lives in a rural area under extreme poverty conditions. The small size of land properties limits the productivity of farmers. Supply and demand are greatly affected because of poverty. Farmers do not have enough land to produce enough food for themselves and sell at the market. The supply of produce is very limited throughout the country. There is always a demand for food in Ukraine. The lack of supply causes the country to import goods. Then once the country imports goods, it puts it in the market place. The unfortunate part of this is that citizens cannot afford food.
Reports vary about the farming operations in the Ukraine. Some reports explain that the Ukrainian government owns the majority of the land that is farmed in the Ukraine. This is a different system than we deal with in the United States, where land is owned and operated by private landowners for the most part. The government in Ukraine is listed as the third largest grain exporter in the world, but that seems to not fit why the poverty is at such an extreme in the Ukraine. Farmers in the Ukraine are only allowed to privately farm 1.25 hectares of land to produce food for this own consumption, which equates to approximately 3.08 acres. There are 45.2 million people who now live in rural areas of Ukraine. Some do have ownership in the land, but not all of those are operating fulltime farms. In 2007, 3.2 hectares or 7.9 acres was the average family farm size. Recently in Ukraine the average smallholder farm has risen to 10 hectares or 24.7 acres. That size is still smaller than the average farm yard in our state. Most acreages are larger than that in our state. The average farm in South Dakota is 1400 acres.
What contributes to the poverty as it relates to the production of agriculture in the Ukraine? There are many things that have been reported to affect this. This area was involved with disputes over property rights with the Russian Federation. Many people have been affected by those disputes which involved over 1.7 million people displaced as a result of the Russian aggression. Because of this type of unrest, the Ukraine has experienced a deep recession and high inflation rates. According to the article Understanding Poverty in Ukraine done be The Borgen Project, public debt will reach 89 percent the Ukraine’s gross domestic product in 2017. But because of barriers due to location and conflicts with other countries, the Ukraine is struggling to recover from their economic downturn. Farming practices have been a major contributor to the decline in Ukraine. Commercial timber production after the Ukraine declared independence in 1960 have plummeted from 13 million hectares to only 2.5 million hectares in the 1990s. They are also experiencing a decline in their coastal wetlands. This has been contributed by things such as water pollution. Communities are struggling with a loss of biodiversity as well as soil degradation which will affect the future of land productivity for years to come. According to the US Aid from the American People, agriculture contributes little to the Ukrainian Gross Domestic Product at only 14 percent with more than one third of the population living in rural areas under extreme poverty conditions. Because of the small footprint that private farms are able to utilize for productivity, this is holding back those farmers from increasing their farm size and thus limits them on the dollars they are able to generate off that land. Though the Ukraine region is known for its farmland being fertile and does make up nearly 70 percent of the country’s land mass, the poverty has kept this country from being successful. One of the things that could make it more successful would be to implement modern technology for farming as well as training laborers and providing the educational opportunities to move this country into the future. Water also seems to be an issue that Ukraine struggles with. They have issues with deteriorating sewer systems as well as agricultural waste that needs to be dealt with. In 2016, the Ukraine was ranked 3rd in the world for exports of barley, 1st in the world for sunflower oil, 6th in the world for wheat export, 4th in the world for corn exports and 7th in the world for soybean exports. They are the number 2 exporter of grains in the world, right behind the United States. Most of their exports go to North Africa and the Middle East. They are accomplishing this vast feat on less than 10 percent of the total agricultural farmland than is used in the United States. They have some of the richest soil in the world, which contains over 30 percent of the world’s reserves of chornozem or “black earth” within the Ukrainian borders. Chornozem is a black soil that is rich in humus and carbonates, making it an ideal soil for agricultural production. There is also approximately seven to 15 percenter organic matter in the soil, according to information obtained from Global Ag Investing. With such a large number of exports, it does make one think about why this country has so much poverty. Is it because the nation itself takes too much from farmers by not allowing them to make the money they need to live? Is it because they are selling their products at a low price just to get rid of them instead of doing a good job of marketing? Answers to these questions are things that could improve the Ukraine’s ability to compete in the world’s markets. They could work to lower production costs and increase productivity which would allow them to be more economical in their productions. Transportation costs to the Middle East are low and could be a way to make the Ukraine more dollars. They use the railway system to transport about 60 percent of their grain to other counties. This would also be a way they could boost their export numbers if it was implemented with a surge in agricultural technology to increase their production in this highly productive region. Precision technology would help this country move forward.
Ukraine’s poverty translated to its Heritage Foundation rankings. Its overall ranking is 147th and its overall score is 52.3. It ranks last among European countries. The scores that affect agriculture are the open market scores and regulatory efficiency. The open market scores include trade freedom which was a 75, investment freedom which was a 35, and finally financial freedom which came in at 30. These scores are extremely low! These relate to why there is poverty in the country, citizens do not have much spending freedom. The other factor that affects agriculture is regulatory efficiency. This group includes business free which was 66.1, labor freedom which was 46.7, and monetary freedom which was 58.6. The only plus of these scores was business freedom. This shows that there is slow economic growth for agriculture.
The charity I chose that supports Ukraine is Heifer International. Heifer International has been around for seventy-five years. Founded by Dan West, Heifer International was inspired by his volunteer service in the Spanish Civil War. There his job was to give cups of milk to refugees. After his work in the war, he was driven by the phrase “not a cup, but a cow”. This phrase drove him into creating Heifer International. He wanted to get nutrition derived people the help they need by giving more than a cup. He wanted to give them the cow so they could be supplied for several days. Heifer International’s goal is to teach environmentally-friendly farming methods and create business for the community. They also strengthen communities by making large improvements to existing systems to benefit farmers in the area. Their overall goal is to help people get on the right track. Heifer International works all over the world. They work with many farmers in many regions. They try to help create a system that works for that region.
Heifer International’s attention turned to Ukraine in 1994. Their first pilot project was a delivery of Simmental heifers to farming families in the Drohobych region. In 2000 Heifer International Ukraine became registered with the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, the main office became located in Lviv. Then in 2003, Heifer International decided to move its office from Lviv to Kyiv. This decision was made to gain a more centrally located office, so they could reach out to more farmers than before. Since that time, Heifer International Ukraine has started five projects in Kyivska Oblast where agricultural service cooperatives were the implementing organizations. Heifer International shifted its focus from helping non-governmental organizations to helping agricultural service cooperatives reach a stable position. One of the main projects now is to help convince smallholder farmers to not only provide food for themselves, but rather help feed the whole world. Heifer International recently partnered with Danone (the parent company of the U.S. dairy company known as Dannon) to help farmers grow strawberries for the company’s yogurt. This gives farmers a chance to earn a good living, and helps the company supply a healthy product for consumers that have a demand for it.
Heifer international has had success with its recent project. Their goal with the strawberry project was to supply sixty percent of Danone’s demand. Danone and Heifer International are working together to expand the project so it can get more farmers involved. It’s hard for the farmers to make a large profit as they are only limited to ten hectares for each smallholder. It is good to see people helping the farmers so they can make a profit.
Heifer International is a strong organization that has been working for seventy-five years. They have a strong passion for what they do. They have offices all around the world trying to help farming make a profit by creating a more economically efficient system. The technology and resource they have access to gives them an advantage in convince family farms and villages to change their ways. They want farmers to help feed the world around them so they can help end hunger and poverty in their own backyard. With the strong passion that Heifer International possesses, this is a very achievable goal.
The weakness Heifer International does possess is convincing a whole region of farmers to change what they have been doing their whole life. It is hard to imagine that a stranger can come in and convince these farmers that the technology and the resources is the right way to go. It will be interesting to see the growth and development of the projects Heifer International has in place. Ukraine is slowly creating a better economy to live in. Poverty is going down slowly and so is hunger. Heifer International is trying to help get these people on the right track. I think it is working at a slow pace, but sometimes slow is good.
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