Canada, Israel join forces to aid Ukrainian agriculture

Rafael Barak, left, and Christian Paradis

Canada and Israel are relying on a Mennonite NGO to deliver agricultural know-how to Ukraine in a multilevel project that builds on a strategic partnership launched last year during Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to Israel.

Late last month, representatives of Canada and Israel met in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to assist farmers and small and medium-sized business owners in a “Ukraine Horticulture Business Development Project.” The signing was witnessed by Okeksiy Pavlenko, Ukraine’s minister of agrarian policy and food.

According to the Israeli Embassy in Ottawa, the project will see the provision of equipment and training by Canadian and Israeli experts to assist local Ukrainian farmers. Other aspects of the project include the establishment of credit facilities to help farmers access capital to grow their investments, assistance to Ukrainian agricultural institutions to develop courses in “efficient and environmentally sustainable management of small farms,” as well as sharing expertise in growing, storage and marketing of agricultural products. 

The project is also designed to help train gardening professionals and, according to the Israeli Embassy, “special attention is paid to female farmers and small entrepreneurs who face challenges to the technical development of their businesses due to a lack of funds.”

The project will deliver agricultural expertise in four regions of south Ukraine – Zaporizhya, Mikolaye, Odessa and Kherson – all of them fairly close to the breakaway Crimean peninsula.

“Canada is steadfast in its commitment to helping advance democracy, strengthen human rights and support sustainable economic growth in Ukraine,” said Christian Paradis, minister of international development and La Francophonie. 

“Our support for this project, in collaboration with the government of Israel, will help Ukrainian farmers and small and medium sized businesses move from poverty to prosperity,” Paradis said.

“This agreement is another example of how Canada and Israel can leverage mutual expertise to help make the world a better place,” said Israeli Ambassador Rafael Barak. “International development is one of the key areas of co-operation – in addition to energy, security, scientific research and academic ties – that were highlighted in the Canada-Israel Strategic Partnership MOU signed last year during Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s historic visit to Israel.”

At the time the agreement was signed in January 2014, Harper touted the MOU as laying out “a strategic direction for stronger future relations between our two countries in commerce, innovation, energy, security, international aid and development, and the promotion of human rights globally.”

Canada is allocating more than $19 million to the project, from 2014 through 2021. As many as 30,000 Ukrainian farmers are expected to benefit.

A key partner in project implementation will be Israel’s Agency for International Development Co-operation, MASHAV, which will provide the experts in project training and capacity-building activities while supporting the development of an apprenticeship program for Ukrainian agricultural college students.

The project is being implemented by MEDA, the Mennonite Economic Development Associates of Canada. MEDA is an international economic development organization founded in 1953 by Mennonite business professionals whose mission is to create business solutions to poverty.