Dobrobut Zakhid, an agricultural municipal enterprise of the Pyadytska territorial community in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, has started harvesting the first blueberries grown with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Decentralization Offering Better Results and Efficiency (DOBRE) Program.
The Duke variety, which has been planted with almost 1,500 bushes, is the first harvest here. So far, the farmers have planted 4.8 hectares of blueberries out of the 16 planned. The harvest will last until late fall as the community grows early, medium, and late varieties of blueberries. This year, they expect to harvest up to 5 tons of blueberries.
According to Petro Haideychuk, head of the Pyadytska community, they planted the first bushes in the fall of 2020. Despite the lack of practical experience in this area, the residents took the risk to start the project, as the soils in the community are favorable for growing this demanding crop. In addition, they built networks from the artificial reservoir to the pumping equipment on their own to ensure constant intensive watering of the plants.
– “Such a project means new jobs, planted land, our own environmentally friendly berries, promotion of our community, and, hopefully, good revenues to the local budget,” – summarizes Petro Haideychuk.
– “The USAID DOBRE Program helped the Pyadytska Hromada purchase the most important equipment for growing blueberries – an innovative drip irrigation system worth $70,000,” said Olesya Khomyn, Local Economic Development Specialist of the USAID DOBRE Program. “The first 7,000 blueberry bushes were purchased at the expense of the oblast budget, as the community won a local government project competition. They also invested a lot of budget money. For almost three years, Dobrobut Zakhid, the project’s implementing organization, has been working as an agro hub and training center, sharing its first experience with other interested communities that came here. Here and now, you can see all the basics of berry growing, starting with land preparation. And this year, the company has finally waited for the first harvest that will allow us to test the pre-established sales channels.
– “At the start, we did not fully realize how demanding and expensive this crop is to care for, even though we had visited many different farms to gain experience,” recalls Mykola Hryshuk, the village elder of Mala Kamianka, where the blueberry plantation is. – “That’s one of the reasons why we took the risk. Of course, if it were not for the significant assistance from the USAID DOBRE Program, such a project would have been unattainable for us. Especially in such difficult times for the economy when we are implementing it. We are planning to create a new facility and purchase refrigeration equipment for storing berries, which we also plan to create with the support of the USAID DOBRE Program. Since we plan to plant 16 hectares of land with blueberries, we order large and high-quality equipment from our partners.”
Since planting the first bush, the farmers have been advised by Anna Lutsko, an international agronomist and expert in organic berry cultivation. According to her, the uniqueness of this project is that Dobrobud Zakhid grows blueberries in an environmentally friendly way – without using pesticides and herbicides. On the one hand, this makes the berries quite expensive, as they have to buy foreign eco-friendly products at high prices. On the other hand, in a market flooded with blueberries, Pyadyky berries are out of competition because they are organic and much healthier.
– “First of all, we want to provide blueberries to meet the needs of our community’s children in local kindergartens and schools, as well as people with health problems,” says Uliana Haideychuk, director of Dobrobut Zakhid, “Because it is a very healthy berry, rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, iron, and phosphorus, as well as vitamins C, B1, B2, K and PP, it is a good booster for the immune system and the only one of its kind that normalizes blood sugar. And the first harvest gave us hope and inspiration that we will successfully move forward.
Of course, it’s too early for the Pyadyky berry growers to dream of exporting because the current plantation is still too small for such ambitious plans. But they have already organized sales in the community and have their first customers. And they can send it to other regions of Ukraine with the help of a delivery service. All contacts can be found on the Dobrobut Zakhid Facebook page. The development of the project gives them confidence that everything will be fine!
Photo: VLADYSLAV SODEL