I have been in the agricultural sector for almost 14 years. The last two years I’m director of social work in Kusto Agro. Before that, I worked in the food company Zarya Podolye, which is part of the agricultural holding Ukrprominvest, as deputy director for personnel and social affairs for seven years. Then I was invited to Kusto Agro, I told about my plans and strategy, and directors liked them.
The first step in the new position was the creation of an action plan for each locality where we rent land. Prior to this, the company’s social policy wasn’t systemic, was in the formative stage, and social issues were generally assigned to the director of Kusto Agro Farming.
When I first came to work, I saw that specialists in social work had no workplaces, no computers and other equipment. In order to motivate employees and ensure the effectiveness of their work, we ordered a corporate form for them, equipped offices, issued laptops and telephones, raised the level of salaries. This is an important point when employees understand that the company cares about and supports them. Through the specialists in social work, the main dialogue takes place between the company and shareholders, whom we consider to be our partners.
We have 10 specialists in social work, most of whom are women. In addition to social projects, they also deal with land issues, for example, the renewal of lease contracts and the re-registration of inheritance. In general, most of our working time employees of our department conduct among shareholders. Very often this is the work of a psychologist – older people need to be listened to, reassured, and just talked.
Now the stage of reporting meetings of the chairmen of village and township councils is being held, acting, elders of the united territorial communities in the communities where we are directly involved, we are accountable for the social policy measures carried out over the past year, we are communicating with the local communities for further partnership, we are sharing and discussing the plans for the next year. In a number of villages we are asked to help with the construction of a water pipe, in Markushah – to finish the church, which is being destroyed, in Lubomirovka – to repair the medical and obstetric center, in Baykovka – to allocate funds for equipping the church in the iconostasis so that they can conduct worship services, in Korostok – make monument for dead soldiers-villagers. And that’s not all.
Residents of the village are not enough only rent. Today almost every company pays a market fee for land, so in order to receive the favor of shareholders, it is necessary to invest a lot in social policy in the countryside.
We have already launched several successful social projects. For example, in the village Lipno, a kindergarten was repaired, the governor noted it as the best in the Zhitomir region. It was our own initiative; we saw in what conditions was garden and started the project. This year the company has provided our settlements in the winter with a technique for clearing roads from snow. A refrigerator for storing the vaccine was purchased in Novoushitska district hospital, and we also helped the exemplary children’s folklore collective “Veretentse” from Krasnoe to go to Kyiv to the festival of folk art where they received prizes.
We have good relations with the authorities, they are trying to help us, and we respond at their request. There was a case when the chairman of the district council asked us to help the hospital in the town Staraya Kotelnaya, and we allocated 25,000 hryvnia for repairs.
We don’t conclude agreements on social partnership. It is more effective to conduct social activities at the expense of one’s own budget. The budget of our department is easy to calculate: we declare 50 hryvnia per hectare of leased land (almost 12,000 hectares), and within this amount we provide assistance. However, it happens that we go out for the budget, because we can’t leave the project unfinished.
In addition to the rent, the shareholder receives an additional package of services. It includes three types of material assistance, we compensate for the expense of the company expenses for registration of the inheritance, we process 30 hundredth parts of land with our equipment for free, we provide the villagers with straw, and we provide grocery sets for the holidays.
The biggest problem that I would like to solve in the village is job places. In plans for the future, we are discussing the possibility of introducing mini-projects to occupy the local population. For example, in the village of Baykovka, a mill, a bakery, was put into operation. The implementation of this project allowed creating new jobs.
I am sure that our company is different from typical Ukrainian agricultural holdings. Our slogan is “Let’s return life to the village.” We are very interested in this, because our success as a commercial company is impossible without good machine operators, milkmaids, workers, it’s all the villagers. We consider shareholders not just landlords, but our partners.