A Ray of Sunshine for Sumy’s Agriculture

The devastating war initiated by Russia in February 2022 had a profound impact on all facets of life and industries in Ukraine, including agriculture, arguably the most peaceful of activities. Oleksandr Sitak, the head of an agricultural company in the Sumy region, recalls the initial days as being fraught with difficulties, especially given their location on the border.

Perseverance in the Face of Adversity

Mr. Sitak identifies the disruption to the energy sector as the most significant challenge. Enemy shelling led to serious issues in the energy sector, which in turn severely affected the operations of the agricultural company. He elaborates that the autumn and winter seasons are typically spent preparing for the new season, which involves fieldwork and harvesting.

Maintenance of agricultural machinery is a crucial preparatory step. It is simply impossible to carry out the relevant work without it. Moreover, with the lack of electricity, no equipment works: neither lathes nor anything else.

“We also have our own grain processing facilities, which include grain drying, preparation for suitable sowing conditions, and subsequent sale. All of these require electricity,” Mr. Sitak explains.

The frequent power outages disrupted nearly all aspects of production activities.

In response to these challenges, the company began formulating strategic plans to achieve energy independence. One of the measures considered was diversifying their electricity sources, which included the installation of generators and exploring the feasibility of constructing their own solar station. However, implementing such projects independently during a war proved to be challenging.

Embracing Risks and Reaping Rewards

Mr. Oleksandr confesses that they explored various avenues, as waiting idly for a miracle was not their approach. They discovered the Power Up! initiative by East Europe Foundation, which seemed like a suitable collaboration opportunity.

Applying for a grant to facilitate such crucial changes was a new experience for the company.

“We had never participated in such projects,” Mr. Oleksandr admits, “but we decided to give it a shot. Our attempt was successful, as we emerged as one of the winners of this selection.”

He emphasizes that the process was not particularly difficult. The key was the willingness to participate and the ability to prepare an application that met the requirements. He also appreciates the constant support and assistance provided by the Foundation’s experts.

The news of their victory in the competition, received via phone and email, was met with immense joy.  “This is a significant milestone for the company’s development and a step towards energy independence. It also signifies hope for the future and new prospects,” Mr. Oleksandr concludes.

Photo: Installation of a solar power plant on the territory of the enterprise

Self-help and Community Support

“Everyone at the enterprise shares a common resolve – a determination to victory. We understand that our country’s food security depends on enterprises like ours. That’s why we persist, maintaining our momentum, and constantly seeking improvements and alternatives,” Oleksandr Sitak asserts.

He elaborates that work will no longer be interrupted due to power outages. Even when there is power, the company can still utilize solar energy for production. This not only benefits the company but also the community at large.

By generating its own energy, the company frees up resources for other consumers. While it may not be a substantial amount, it can be utilized during peak times when the grid is under pressure. In general, the state stands to benefit as such an agricultural company will consume energy it produces itself. It’s a win-win situation for all.

The company, led by Mr. Oleksandr, cultivates grain crops: wheat, corn, sunflower, and soybeans, which form the backbone of our country’s food supply. Winning the grant program from East Europe Foundation has inspired him to participate in other support projects.

“This experience demonstrates that it’s both realistic and promising to succeed, improve, and expand your operations. We’ve also gained invaluable experience collaborating with such a Foundation, which is a first for us,” Oleksandr Sitak reflects.

For Your Information

The collaboration with East Europe Foundation occurred under the Power Up! initiative. A company in the Sumy region was given the opportunity to purchase, install, and utilize a solar power plant.

The project was executed to bolster the energy efficiency and energy independence of enterprises that continue to operate despite the extremely challenging conditions in areas affected by hostile attacks: Sumy, Kharkiv, and Chernihiv regions.

The project aims to achieve total energy savings of at least 3000 MW per year.

The Power Up! project is implemented within the program Promotion of Energy Efficiency and Implementation of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive in Ukraine, executed by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the governments of Germany and Switzerland.