Agro-Ecological Center

Information about a project

Agro-Ecological Center

On the one hand the Ukraine is an agricultural country (74% of its area, 30% of population in agriculture), on the other hand it is a centre of heavy industry, the development of which under the centralised command economy caused severe environmental problems (e.g. 4-5 times higher level of environmental load than in highly industrialised countries).Since the beginning of the period of transition and socio-economic reforms environmental matters received a prioritised attention. The Aarhus Convention addressing public participation in environmental matters (signed in 1998), and various governmental programs (nature conservancy, sanitation, restoration) indicate that the political circle and the community realize the need for integration of the Ukraine into the European environmental network. Local ecological centers in Zhytomyrska, Zakarpatska, Donetska, Luhanska and other regions were founded. The Odessa State Ecological University was established and ecology disciplines have been introduced in a number of Ukrainian universities.
The strategic environmental challenge of agro-industrial development is relevant to Poltava region as well. Being an important centre of industry, oil (20% of Ukrainian oil) and gas (40% of country’s gas) production, Poltava region is also an agricultural centre. The favourable natural agro-climatic conditions of the region would allow farmers to exploit the potential of organic farming and benefit from trade agreements with WTO and the EU. This requires revision and improvement of food safety, control and certification systems, consistent with international standards.
To gain balance between agriculture and industry the Poltava State Council – the highest regional legislative authority- approved the program of organic farming with decision of 20.10.2005. For the implementation of this program the oblast administration established the Coordination Board for the Development of Organic Farming and Food Production to instigate cooperation between state institutions, agricultural enterprises, educational and research institutions on regional, national and international level.
Yet the only devoted advocates for cooperation of the common efforts are a group of intellectuals from universities of the region, who requested experts from the University of Hohenheim in Germany to assess the situation in Poltava. According to SWOT analysis weaknesses and threats of the region (e.g. agro-industrial development; environmental deficits; still low ecological awareness; etc.) are in an inferior position towards the strengths and opportunities (e.g. good agricultural conditions; better ecological parameters than the country’s average; increasing ecological awareness of different social interest-groups increasingly improving legislative basis for organic farming; attractiveness of organic food for producers and for a certain group of consumers, etc.). The German colleagues confirmed that the major drawback of the regional environmental policy is the lacking communication between different governmental and non-governmental institutions, the personnel of which we categorise as academicals (educational and research institutions), non-academicals (local self-government bodies, non-governmental organizations, citizens’ associations, professional associations, business groups and local populace) and administrative (governmental legislative, executive, municipal) staff. This leads to inefficient performance of the existing organisations: some ecological activities are unnecessarily overlapping and some environmental issues are left completely uncovered. No problem-oriented discussion between agrarian and industrial sector at oblast level takes place.
The Round-Table-Discussion of UA and German specialists at their second meeting in Poltava
concluded in gathering the ecologically active institutions of Poltava under a common umbrella, which will enable to meet the major environmental needs of the country and the region: a) ensuring ecological safety in food production and b) in all domains of vital activities, as well as c) establishment of modern environmental management, monitoring and control system at state and regional level.
These organisations, the most important of which are selected as consortium members, have several specific as well as common needs in i) international, but also in ii) national context.
i) UA institutions share at different levels the lack of international experience, i.e. the necessity of
a) acquiring awareness of EU food norms and standards and complying with them;
b) methodological recommendations of application of new quality control systems ISO, HCCP;
c) studying the normative-legislative basis of ecological documentation and environmental regulations of EU and assessing the potential of their application in Ukrainian conditions;
d) getting insight in modern low-input, energy-saving, rational resource use production technologies and methodologies, which they need for their educational and research activities, for chemical and biochemical analyses, and for ecological monitoring, audit and management.
ii) In the national front they need
a) more efficient exchange of scientific, educational, methodological as well as practical experience between the existing structures and organizations in the field of ecology of the region;
b) more active involvement in environmental protection investigations;
c) public control of those organizations, which issue certificates of quality to producers,
d) increasing possibilities for a transparent access for wide spectrum of ecology experts.
One common shortcomming of ecological education is its predominantly theoretical orientation and insufficient references to practice. The universities even though have rather adequate curricula for environmental disciplines these however need permanent actualisation and modernisation, especially in their practise relevant aspects.
Besides the UA institutions all have specific needs, which they hope to be able to meet through the realisation of the proposed project. Thus the PSAA needs support in development of methodologies of economic analysis of agro-complexes under conditions of different intensity of resource use and for optimization of the influence of agricultural mechanisms on soil; easily applicable methodologies for improvement of genetic and biochemical parameters of production.
The PTNU needs expertise to develop methodologies for microclimate formation systems; enhancement of methodological basis for measurement and evaluation of the quantitative and qualitative structure of the industrial wastes; and investigation of the impact of atmosphere contaminators on the agricultural production.
By establishing the Agro-Ecological Centre of Competence in Poltava, the project intends to facilitate the discussion on the environmentally sustainable coexistence of the agro-industrial complex that should not be exclusively left to policy makers.

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