The doctor, who was evacuated from Mariupol, is engaged in agriculture in Dnipropetrovsk region

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The war caught Larysa Zueva while she was working a shift at a psychiatric hospital in Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine. She spent more than a month with her grandson in the hospital’s shelter with about 200 other people. Despite the attacks, her work at the hospital continued. When the gas lines were cut, they resorted to cooking on an open fire, still managing to feed and care for their patients.

“There were very heavy bombings, so we could not leave the city during the first evacuation, but on 22 March, we finally succeeded,” said Larysa.

Larysa and her grandson travelled for five days to reach Pushkarivka in the Dnipropetrovska oblast, north of Mariupol, where the shelling was not constant. Natalia, an ex-colleague of Larysa’s daughter, welcomed them and helped them to settle down.

“My apartment in Mariupol was completely destroyed. There is nowhere to come back to. Our beautiful, developed city and our home are gone,” Larysa explains.

Now she and her grandson are renting a house and have already started cultivating the land. They are gradually getting used to their new home, the garden and new landscapes.

She had never been a farmer, but the neighbours helped and told her how and what to do.

“People here are very responsive; they advise us on how to cultivate the land. Strawberries were planted yesterday. We also bought cucumber and tomato seeds. And today we received seed potatoes from FAO, which we will plant. We are planting vegetables as no one knows what will happen next,” added Larysa.

From FAO’s distribution, Larysa received 50 kilograms of seed potatoes that will help her grow about 600 kilograms of potatoes for her family’s own consumption or for sale.

Although she does not foresee being able to return to her native Mariupol, she still does not lose hope, and is sincerely thankful for the assistance and agricultural inputs.

“As soon as the war is over, we would like to buy this house.”

In total, FAO has delivered 862 tonnes of seed potatoes to 17 740 households across ten of the country’s oblasts in the east, south, centre and west of Ukraine. Distribution came in time for the spring potato sowing campaign in mid-May, which will ensure that this nutritious food source can be harvested in September.

Larysa’s family is one of 3 690 households in Dnipropetrovska oblast that have received assistance from FAO’s Humanitarian Response programme. The distribution of seed potatoes was done in cooperation with the local implementation partner, the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Public Organization’s Agricultural Advisory Service.

“It’s absolutely crucial right now to help farmers, in particular the smallholder ones, who are involved in backyard farming and produce food for their own consumption,” said Pierre Vauthier, FAO Ukraine Designated Responsible Officer. “FAO’s response includes providing crop and livestock inputs along with cash to support the most affected smallholder farmers and livestock holders to meet seasonal deadlines. This support will enable households to produce vegetables, cereal crops, milk, meat and eggs to feed themselves.”

FAO has been operating in Ukraine since 2003. Following the start of the war, the Organization has enacted a Rapid Response Plan (RRP) to provide agricultural assistance and ensure food security to those most affected by the conflict.

Within the RRP, FAO is calling for a total of USD 115.4 million in funding to provide support to 979 320 smallholder farmers and medium-sized producers through December 2022.

To date, financial contributions have been provided by Australia, Belgium, the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) Rapid Response, the European Union, France, Japan, the Louis Dreyfus Foundation, Ukraine Humanitarian Fund and United States Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.


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