Desperate farm families in eastern Ukraine forced into ‘difficult choices’ to survive – UN agency

A local farmer feeding her chickens, Lugansk, Donbass region, Ukraine. Photo: FAO/Alexey Filippov

7 December 2015 – The absence of financial, physical, social and human resources has left some 700,000 farm households extremely vulnerable in conflict-torn eastern Ukraine, the results of a United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) household survey revealed today, and also warned of food insecurity among those families due to “skyrocketing” commodity prices.

Painting “a bleak picture” for small-scale farming families in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the FAO survey noted that to cope with the dire circumstances, people are skipping meals, migrating to find work, borrowing to pay for necessities, selling household goods and vehicles, killing their livestock for lack of feed, and even planting less for lack of seed and fertilizer.

“Family farms in the conflict area have shown resilience in the face of very difficult conditions, but this cannot last,” said Farrukh Toirov, FAO emergency response coordinator in Ukraine, stressing that while “difficult choices” may make sense in the short term, “it means we can expect to see consequences.”

The FAO household survey also warned of “skyrocketing” prices for animal feed and agricultural inputs such as seed, fertilizer and tools, among others.

“We believe there is a significant and urgent need to support the subsistence production needs of the affected populations and stabilize their agricultural activities,” said Vladimir Rakhmanin, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia.

FAO has carried out the timely distribution of potato seed, animal feed, and live broiler-layer chickens to needy farm households in eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, the agency is boosting operations to reach more families and enabling them to continue production.

Immediate-term solutions to tackle food insecurity such as providing agricultural inputs and animal feed to ensure crop and livestock production are recommended in the report.

The majority of survey respondents produce crops for their own consumption. While there is a growing trend of migration, the capacity to self-sufficiency is declining for those remain on the land, according to the survey.

“People should not become dependent on food hand-outs in a land that can produce most of the population's food needs,” said Mr. Rakhmanin.

In late February 2014, the situation in Ukraine transcended what was initially seen as an internal Ukrainian political crisis into violent clashes in parts of the country, later reaching full-scale conflict in the east. Nevertheless, despite a September 2014 ceasefire agreed in Minsk, the situation has since deteriorated, with serious consequences for the country’s unity, territorial integrity and stability.


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