Five years ago, Yuliia and Oleksandr settled in a village in Dnipropetrovsk region, where they decided to start a farm. Today, they cultivate about 100 hectares of their own and leased land, growing soybeans, corn, sunflowers, and wheat. In 2019, they bought a new tractor and are gradually updating their inventory. Yuliia, a humanities graduate, runs the legal and financial side of the business, and Oleksandr deals with the machinery. Together, they work as a team - and since 2021, they have been sharing their farming journey on social media, with nearly 30,000 active followers.

"But the war has changed our lives," says Yuliia.

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Yuliia and Oleksandr’s farm, like thousands of others across the country, has faced shortages of fertilizers and necessary resources, and high prices for those that are available. Challenging export logistics and low grain prices have also created new difficulties for small farms to secure working capital for daily operations.

Ukraine’s farms play a critical role in global food security. To ensure the 2024 harvest in the face of these barriers to access and affordability of vital inputs, USAID provided 7,621 agricultural producers like Yuliia and Oleksandr across 23 regions of Ukraine with fertilizers to use during the 2024 spring sowing season.

"It was impossible to buy fertilizers. For a small farmer, this is really a big help in such a difficult time. Thanks to the fertilizers we received, we were able to fertilize 10 hectares of wheat and hope for a better harvest."

Russia’s war has created an additional challenge - a lack of available workers as Ukrianians fight on the front. Yuliia is now learning to drive a tractor and studying the details of crop production herself.

"I think you need to be able to do everything. Even if it never happens in life, it's better to know and be prepared. Although with two higher education degrees in humanities, I never thought I could be a tractor driver. I used to dream of being a lawyer and working in an office, but now I can't imagine my life without the field."

Yuliia says that in the early days of the war, they didn't even think about leaving. They feel a responsibility to the people who have entrusted them with their land and are waiting for rent payments: these funds are important for rural residents.

"Right now, we're just staying afloat. Our income is nothing like what it was before the war. The only thing we do is pay rent to the people we rent from, and buy seeds for the next year. We try to hold on in this difficult time. We adhere to the idea that if we survive now, everything will be fine in peacetime. We believe in it."

Despite all the challenges on their path, they continue to work and plan their future at home, on Ukrainian soil.

"Ukrainian land is the most fertile in the world. We were born here. No matter what anyone else says, home is the best. This is our land, for which we will fight. Despite everything, we need to sow, grow crops, so that Ukrainians have bread on the table. And also supply our Ukrainian grain to countries that need it. Each of us now needs to make the maximum effort in our field of activity to support the economy and save the country."

Through the Agri-Ukraine Initiative, USAID supports micro, small, and medium-sized agricultural enterprises (MSMEs), grain and oilseed producers, at important stages of production to ensure that Ukrainian grain can still reach the global markets that depend on it, despite Russia’s war. In 2023 and 2024, USAID has provided seeds and fertilizers to over 14,000 Ukrainian agricultural producers, enabling them to farm more than 460,000 hectares of productive land, and facilitating the production of at least 2 million tons of grain.

Yulia, a farmer from Dnipropetrovsk Oblast
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