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March 31 2006, 00:00 Agrarian Marketing Project

Women in Agriculture

The name "Lyudmyla" can be translated from Ukrainian as a one who is "dear to people." Lyudmila Sobol from Khudyaki village, Cherkasy oblast, mirrors the name fully. Her kindness and sympathy is complemented by a strong personality, which helped her to accomplish success as the head of an agricultural service cooperative name after her.

Lyudmila Sobol, the Leader of Lyudmila cooperative

Lyudmila got involved in agribusiness in1995 after more than 20 years of work as an economist in a state enterprise. She began with land leasing, and then decided to switch to growing and selling vegetables, first independently, and then by engaging her fellow villagers.

In 2003, Lyudmyla started an agricultural service cooperative, which united 13 villagers who grew vegetables in her village, 10 of which were women. Soon she expanded her own vegetable production to 10 hectares with cooperative members cultivating another 24 hectares. While she considered herself a successful producer, her produce sold at very low prices during the summer due to excessive vegetable supplies at that time. She knew she could do much better during the off-season when vegetable prices rose. The problem was ensuring the quality.

The solution came after she took part in a USAID-supported study tour to Poland. As a cooperative leader and client of the Agricultural Marketing Project (AMP), Mrs. Sobol visited small- and medium-sized private farms in Poland, where she saw farmers actively using storage facilities for packing and storing perishable produce. Polish farmers told her that this approach allowed them to sell fruits and vegetables to supermarkets at higher prices than to local street markets.

Lyudmyla then proposed to her partners that they should develop storage facilities for their business. Together they prepared a business plan and submitted it for consideration by the AMP grant program, which agreed to provide about 21% of the expenses required to build the vegetable storage facility. The rest has been covered by the "Lyudmyla" cooperative.

In operation since the fall of 2005, the storage facility stocks a full range of traditional vegetables, including pickles and tomatoes, most of which are sold at retail through supermarkets, mainly in Cherkasy.

The storage facility provides the cooperative with a most important advantage – it preserves vegetable quality longer which allows cooperative members to sell their produce in the off season and receive a much better price. The cooperative can also meet supermarket requirements for a more stable and regular supply of high-quality vegetables year round than other produce suppliers in Ukraine.

The high efficiency of new vegetable production technologies gives cooperative members’ confidence in the future success of their business development. The restless energy of the cooperative leader, Mrs. Lyudmyla Sobol, helps provide financial security to the 16 women of the village who work at "Lyudmyla" as the cooperative members and full-time employees.

While retaining a reputation as an "Iron Lady" in her work, in her everyday life she embodies the kindness and compassion reflected in her name. Mrs. Sobol is actively involved in the public life of the village. She supports the local kindergarten, where she also fully provides the vegetables the children require. She donates produce to the local school and hospital as well, as well as taking care of repairs for all three premises. But that’s not all, Mrs. Sobol also sponsors the amateur talent group in the village and pays wages of the choral director. Mother of two children, in 1993 she adopted a child that she continues to care for.

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