WFA is committed to supporting women in food and agriculture on a global scale and raising awareness of initiatives advancing women’s careers in the sector. We sat down with Iryna Tytarchuk, who is the Executive Director at Ukraine Investment & Trade Facilitation Center (ITFC) to get a deeper insight on impact of the war in Ukraine on the agricultural sector and how the ‘Help Women Agro in Ukraine’ initiative is helping to restore women-led SMEs in the country.
Iryna studied at the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine in Kyiv obtaining a PhD focusing on agricultural economics and applied her knowledge to teaching finance. Both her academic and professional experience, has allowed her to play an instrumental role in advising farms on how to obtain financial support, grants and strengthen their business strategy. As the co-owner of the ‘White Farm’ she also pursues a life of farming herself by growing vegetables and immersing herself in the industry.
With 20 years of experience working on the development of the agriculture sector in Ukraine, Iryna has demonstrated a strong commitment to supporting Ukrainian women entrepreneurs and even more so during this time of turmoil for the country.
From 2019, she has been working as an Executive Director for the Ukraine Investment & Trade Facilitation Center (ITFC) a non-profit organisation invested in supporting women-led SMEs and entrepreneurs. ITFC hold seminars through their Women Biz Day Project, online mentorship sessions from Grow UP Agro initiative, offer financial support through grants and further training to develop their business management skills. Now the ITFC has started a new ‘Help Women Agro in Ukraine’ initiative with the aim to support Ukrainian women entrepreneurs in food and ag whose businesses have suffered due to military invasion. Tackling gender inequality and advancing women’s careers in the agriculture sector in Ukraine is a core aim for the ITFC. Iryna recognises that there is still much work to be done to achieve true gender parity. “Men make up 71% of employed workers in agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Despite studies which show that women’s leadership in economic life is an important factor in sustainable growth and in development of the country,“ she tells us.
Through the ‘Help Women Agro in Ukraine’ initiative, the ITFC aims to address the challenges facing women entrepreneurs, by offering support leadership training, funding to restore their facilities and crisis management advice to founders, business owners and directors in Ukraine.
With the war in Ukraine underway and negatively impacting small to medium women agricultural producers and presenting serious consequences for agricultural production in the country, Iryna shares why urgent action is needed.
“In 2021, Ukraine exported agricultural products to more than 180 countries. The largest buyers of Ukrainian products were the EU countries – almost 30%. The war has reduced supply, led to rising world prices, food inflation and deteriorating food availability in importing countries. This situation can lead to a major food problem around the world,” she says explaining the adverse impact of the war on Ukraine’s position as a guarantor of food worldwide and what this could mean for long-term security.
“This is a real war and in some regions of Ukraine we see it is genocide. Women make up almost 30% of farmers and small to medium agricultural producers living in small towns and villages across the country. And now, being in such regions is a real danger for them.
If we talk about the production of vegetables, berries, fruits, and nuts – there have been serious consequences for them and particularly in the South of Ukraine where is it is difficult to sustain work due to the destruction of production infrastructure”.
So far, twenty women have expressed their interest in participating in the ‘Help Women Agro in Ukraine’ initiative and the ITFC has set out several key targets to ensure that the aims of the scheme are reached. These include offering financial aid to at least ten women-led farms, mentorship support, creating opportunities for women entrepreneurs to work with international partners and promote their products in foreign markets.
Iryna explains that the pandemic coupled with an ongoing war has brought inequalities faced by Ukrainian women in the sector to the forefront. She believes that women-led SMEs are vital to the industry and remains inspired by the importance of women in leadership in peacetime and in times of war. “As part of my projects, I see vivid cases of leadership demonstrated by women in the farming industry. These are smart women who talk about their work on the farm every day, they are proud of it and are able to start a profitable business.”
For aspiring women who are beginning their journey in the agricultural sector Iryna suggests that it is important to “think strategically, be proud of your achievements, establish partnerships and follow innovations and new technologies”.
When it comes to the role that global agribusinesses can play in supporting Ukrainian women in the sector and promoting gender equality, Iryna believes that the opportunity for progress lies in organisations working closely with women living in rural areas, listening to their stories and creating meaningful partnerships. Through the ‘Help Women Agro in Ukraine’ initiative, the ITFC is using its resources to provide a platform for women farmers and entrepreneurs to forge business connections that can positively impact their careers.
Though the ITFC remains open to support. “We would like support from global organizations in terms of partnerships, joint initiatives, activities, “patronage” of women farmers and other decisive steps” Iryna says.
To find out how you can offer support to the ITFC’s ‘Help Women Agro in Ukraine’ initiative, contact Iryna at IrynaTytarchuk@tradecenter.org.ua
You can also support Iryna’s farm the ‘White Farm’ on Instagram and LinkedIn here: https://www.instagram.com/white__farm/