Linda Benedict | 5/6/2005 7:19:11 PM
The LSU AgCenter is operating a program in Ukraine that is a model for how to run a successful educational effort in a country that was formerly part of the Soviet bloc. The program, “Improving Income of Private Ukrainian Agricultural Producers,” targets farmers with less than 250 hectares and household plot owners (HPOs). Much of the food consumed within the country is produced by this latter group, who use their yards and land near their homes for orchards, gardens and a few dairy cows.
The goals of the AgCenter project include helping the farmers and HPOs become more efficient, learn the latest technology and develop marketing skills.
Initial interest in Ukraine came about in the 1980s through the efforts of the AgCenter’s former chancellor, H. Rouse Caffey. This current project is directed by Lakshman Velupillai, director of International Programs. The heart of the program, though, is with Larry Brock, former county agent in St. Mary Parish, who is teaching the Ukrainians how an agricultural extension program can work.
Brock lived in Ukraine, which is slightly larger than the state of Texas, for two and a half years, giving the project his full attention. With the renewal of the second phase of the current project on March 1, 2002, he spends from six weeks to eight weeks every quarter in the country. The U.S. Agency for International Development, which funds the project, is so pleased with the results so far that it has renewed this three-year phase for a record $3.2 million.
The LSU AgCenter’s project is headquartered in Vinnytsia, which is in the Vinnytsia oblast (province), but has expanded to two nearby oblasts.
Although Ukraine is a beautiful country with rolling hills and a picturesque landscape, the agricultural problems are immense. Conversion from state-run collective farms to privately run farms has been extremely difficult. Among the obstacles are that the farmers cannot get loans, equipment is expensive and hard to come by, and farmers cannot buy and sell land given to them as part of the breakup of the collective farms.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture