At the end of July FAO, UNO’s Food and Agriculture Organization, launched a climate change solution project in Ukraine. AgroGeneration became one of the key business partners in terms of such issues as irrigation, deforestation, and forest degradation.
Throughout the project implementation period – until 2020 – AgroGeneration intends to allocate USD 2,2M.
For Ukraine’s part project, activities will be coordinated by the Ministry of Ecology along with the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine. For the period till March 2020 the program’s estimated budget will constitute USD 12M, where USD 1.8M will come from the project initiator Global Environment Facility with co-financing allocated by FAO (USD 1M), Ministry of Ecology (USD 6M), Ukrainian Center of Soil Ecology (USD 400 ths.), and other institutions.
Based on FAO’s project charter now available to AgroPortal.ua, the international and Ukrainian institutions will draw on the experience of AgroGeneration – an agricultural producer operating on ca. 120 thousand hectares in the Kharkiv, Lviv, Sumy, Zhytomyr, and Ternopil regions – with a focus on the strengthening of Ukraine’s capacity to maintain environmental sustainability in the forest-steppe and steppe zones.
As AgroPortal.ua was told, the agricultural holding is interested in environmental sustainability, which is actually a part of AgroGeneration’s overall mission statement. The company invests in modern agricultural machinery and uses minimum tillage methods to minimize erosion and preserve soil quality and nutrients.
Within the framework of project implementation activities, farms of the agricultural holding from the Velykyi Burluk and Barvinkove districts of the Kharkiv region will share their expertise on precision farming as part of the conservation agriculture strategy. Specialists of AgroGeneration will also contribute to the development of recommendations to farmers and agro-enterprises on the wider use of conservation agriculture technologies and practices.
Moreover, as envisaged by the FAO project, farmer field schools will be established to support peer-learning and farmer-to-farmer exchanges. During field visits AgroGeneration will demonstrate best practice in the integrated natural resources management, climate-smart agriculture, and shelterbelt management.
Why is FAO’s project “Integrated Natural Resources Management in Degraded Landscapes in the Forest-Steppe and Steppe Zones of Ukraine” important in the context of the upcoming land reform?
One of this project’s key aspects is the management of shelterbelts bordering on farmlands. The availability of and care for shelterbelts in the steppe and forest-steppe zones is crucial not only in terms of nature preservation, but also for the minimization of soil erosion and for the generation of new income sources for local communities.
AgroGeneration will offer its lands in the Kharkiv region to demonstrate shelterbelt management; it is the intention of the company to strengthen its cooperation on the issue with local communities who will carry on their own shelterbelt restoration. To analyze soil degradation in the forest-steppe and steppe zones, project participants on the business side will be able to use modern information and communication technologies (such as satellite images, digitized information accessible through smartphones and tablets).
This will be coupled with demonstrations of rehabilitation and multipurpose shelterbelt management for erosion control, carbon sequestration and income generation through e.g. non-timber forest products (NTFPs) from acacia, fruit trees, linden, bushes etc. Demonstration activities are expected to be upscaled to approximately 90,800 ha. Key institutions that will participate in this sub-component are the State Forest Resources Agency of Ukraine, Ukrainian Nut Association, AgroGeneration, and Ukrzaliznytsia.
Now the baseline support to shelterbelt management includes significant investments from the Ukraine Railway Company (Ukrzaliznytsia) that manages 84,000 ha of land, including shelterbelts alongside the railways. Over the last 5 years, Ukrzaliznytsia has spent around USD 200 million on environmental projects. In 2015 alone this amount was around USD 11.5 million.
For example, the Ukrainian Nut Association (UNA) has confirmed interest in using shelterbelts for planting all types of nuts once the legal status for these areas is determined. The participation of the UNA will also have significant implications in terms of long term sustainability as they bring their experience in value chain development. Ukrzaliznytsia will co-finance shelterbelt rehabilitation in the steppe zone to reduce soil erosion and to improve ecological functions.
Today such issues as shelterbelt inventory and land management procedures are facing challenges in Ukraine. The regulations of the Cabinet of Ministry No.513 dated 23.05.2012 do not take into account specifics of shelterbelts. The procedures for land inventory envisaged by the regulations are very expensive, complicated and time consuming. FAO expects that, following the project implementation results, the regulations will be amended in order to simplify and improve land inventory under shelterbelts. The special recommendations will be developed for sustainable management of shelterbelts taking into account various geographical, soil, and climate conditions, as well as ownership of shelterbelts. The government should allow the possibility for authorized bodies (to be determined) to supervise the outcomes of the shelterbelts management.
FAO project participants expect that project implementation will result in the strengthened collaboration of farmers and local communities in the green food and feed value chains development. According to the available project design, value-chains are generally neither sufficiently inclusive, nor environmentally friendly in Ukraine. Entry points for making value chains more inclusive for local communities will therefore be identified together with key project partners, such as the USAID project on Agricultural and Rural Development, the Ukrainian Nut Association, and AgroGeneration S.A.
For agricultural land, the focus will be on cereals, and for shelterbelts on fruits, such as dried plums, nuts and other NTFPs, such as honey. This involves support to agricultural producers in identifying opportunities for branding strategies etc. in collaboration with agricultural cooperatives in order to develop models on sustainable economic development at the local level.
According to FAO project information available to AgroPortal.ua, agricultural service providers have limited knowledge and technical skills related to conservation agriculture. To increase access to various researches and innovations, the output will be delivered by the Leonid Pohorilyi Ukrainian Scientific Research Institute on Forecasting and Testing of Machinery and Technologies (USRI) and the German-Ukrainian Agricultural Demonstration and Training Centre. Within the scope of the project the USRI will select names and characteristics of agriculture machinery and equipment used for no-till and minimum-tillage. AgroGeneration, of course, will also share its experience.
The scope of FAO’s project includes the collection of statistical information on the use of such machinery and no-till and minimum-tillage in the country. Such data collection will enhance efforts for implementation of conservation agriculture at the state level. Collection of such statistical information will also facilitate elaboration of draft regulations on conservation agriculture in Ukraine. FAO will also undertake the assessment of performance of such agricultural approaches.
Final outcomes will be discussed with local communities and agricultural enterprises participating in the project.
General Information: The call to prioritize climate change mitigation and adaptation in agriculture is outlined in the 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, also known as the Paris Agreement.
Alla Stryzheus, AgroPortal.ua
The article was originally written in Russian and translated by AgroGeneration