By Rostyslav Averchuk
Lviv, Ukraine, Apr 18 (EFE).- A Ukrainian initiative is inviting foreigners to send seeds to the country in the hopes of distributing them to some 100,000 households in areas that were devastated by the months-long Russian occupation, enabling locals to grow their own food and avoid food shortages.
“This is about solidarity and achieving important results with small and simple steps”, Volodymyr Kadygrob, founder of the “Seeds for Ukraine” initiative, tells Efe.
Despite the Russian retreat after Ukraine’s successful counter-offensives last year, the situation on the frontline and in liberated regions is still very difficult, with the threat of local famine looming.
An area twice the size of Austria is contaminated with mines, which makes cultivating the land fraught with risk. Warehouses and food logistics have been damaged by Russian attacks; many locals have seen their jobs, income or housing disappear amid soaring food prices.
With the sowing campaign in full swing in Ukraine, even a couple of packages of seeds sent by mail to the country can be of huge help, Kadygrob underlines.
EU residents can send certified packages of seeds of legumes, watermelons, tomatoes and other plants to the distribution center in Poland. The seeds are then sorted into standard family packages and distributed through a network of volunteers in Ukraine.
People from outside the EU can donate to the initiative, which uses the funds to purchase seeds or to build greenhouses in devastated communities.
Last year, the initiative provided support to more than 10,000 households. It aims to extend its coverage to 100,000 families this year, with the focus on mostly rural areas in the regions of Kharkiv, Kherson, Chernigiv and Sumy.
Kherson is especially renowned for its agricultural produce, which used to flood markets all over Ukraine every year before Russia’s occupation. Its residents are in desperate need of support to be able to grow food even for their own consumption, in their private gardens.
The demand for seeds and greenhouses is huge and the initiative cannot cover everybody’s needs, Kadygrob says. He is certain however that providing seeds to locals is more efficient than delivering food through logistical channels that are already stretched thin.
“Instead of having to send, say, 100 kg of beetroot, we can send several packs of seeds to local families so that they could grow the same quantity of food on their own”, explains Kadygrob.
He says that people cry with joy when they receive seeds, which unlike being given items for free, means they can start to rebuild their lives and share the fruits of their labor with others who need it.
“I remember a grandmother, who had half of her home gone due to shelling. No one knew what was going to happen in a month or two. She needed those seeds so that she could have her own food if things went badly,” Kadygrob says.
One of the initiative’s volunteers left the occupied Sumy region last spring twice solely to get seeds. She had to launch a drone to check for Russian troops on her way because running into them could have led to her being killed.
Most seeds that the initiative receives from abroad come from small farmers and individuals in small, hand-packed parcels.
“They often contain messages of support and radiate positive energy and solidarity,” says Kadygrob.
The initiative is also working on delivering greenhouses to communities and to temporary housing centers for displaced Ukrainians. This both addresses the mine contamination problem and gives refugees something to occupy their time and minds.
“This is not only about food. It gives them hope, supports them psychologically”, Kadygrob underlines.
He also indicates that supporting families in these regions helps preserve extensive local traditions of sustainable farming.
“While everywhere in the world people are trying to return to sustainable agricultural practices, we can make an impact by ensuring they don’t disappear in Ukraine”. EFE