FAO’s engagement in Ukraine

Centrality of Agriculture to Ukraine and the Region

© FAO/Giulio Napolitano

Rome, Italy - Photos of the FAO and the UN flags.

©FAO/Giulio Napolitano


Rome - About 30 percent (12.6 million people) of Ukraine’s population lives in rural areas (as of January 2021). Agriculture plays an increasingly important role in the Ukrainian economy, with its share of GDP (including forestry and fishery) rising from 6.3 percent in 2007 to 9.3 percent in 2020.  When upstream and downstream industries of agriculture (input supply and food processing) are also considered, the contribution of the sector to the Ukrainian economy increases to approximately 22 percent of GDP. 

Ukraine is the fifth largest wheat exporter in the world, with a global market share of 10 percent between the periods of 2016/17 and 2020/21. Most of Ukraine’s wheat originates in Kyiv and the Mykolaiv region. Ukraine’s main grain ports, also on the Black Sea, are in Odessa and Mykolaiv. In 2021, Ukraine represented 9 percent of the global market share of exports. Ukraine’s maize export share over the same period was even more significant, averaging 15 percent and conferring it the spot of the world’s fourth largest maize exporter. Kyiv, in the Mykolaiv region, along with the Chernihiv region, are Ukraine’s leading maize producing areas.

Prior to the current military operation, FAO had anticipated maize deliveries by Ukraine to amount to 33 million tonnes in 2021/22, which would have made it the third largest global maize exporter. 

FAO’s Work in Ukraine – Before the Military Operation

FAO has long supported the people of Ukraine in rural development, environmentally sustainable agriculture, climate change adaptation, and humanitarian assistance to address food security and livelihoods needs. Over the last couple of years, with programmes valued at USD 24.6 million, FAO has been providing wide-ranging support, including supporting the Government to manage animal health threats, assisting smallholder producers along the value chain, and working with UN partners to address the needs of conflict-affected communities. 

Even prior to February 2022, food insecurity was high in conflict-affected areas. A November 2021 Food Security and Livelihoods Assessment[1] in government-controlled areas (GCA) and non-government controlled areas (NGCA) of eastern Ukraine indicated that 58 percent of the population faced challenges related to limited livelihoods opportunities, including lack of income-generating opportunities and access to markets. Furthermore, 28.3 percent experienced food insecurity at “moderate or severe” levels; among them, female-headed households were significantly more food insecure (37.5 percent) than male-headed households (20.5 percent).

While the evolving situation remains unpredictable, expectations are high of a further deterioration of food security in the east and across the country. FAO is planning to scale up assistance to all affected areas as part of interagency efforts.

FAO Responds to Current Humanitarian Needs

On Tuesday 1 March, the United Nations and humanitarian partners launched coordinated emergency appeals for a combined USD 1.7 billion to urgently deliver humanitarian support to people in Ukraine and refugees in neighbouring countries. This includes an appeal for USD 1.1 billion to support 6 million people inside Ukraine. Within the appeal, FAO needs USD 50 million over the next 3 months to urgently assist up to 240 000 most vulnerable rural men and women (over 100 000 households) including people displaced inside Ukraine. FAO has three immediate priorities as a part of the appeal:

Priority 1. Providing cash to meet basic household needs

The most vulnerable farming households will receive targeted cash transfers for three months to cover immediate food and other basic needs. This will build on FAO's recent experience with cash transfers in Ukraine and on best practices from other contexts.

Priority 2. Supporting food production through timely provision of inputs

Animal fodder and feed will be provided to protect livestock over the next three months and prevent the use of negative coping strategies such as taking on debt or selling livelihood assets.

 Short-cycle vegetable seeds will be distributed, including for potatoes, a key staple of the Ukrainian diet, to quickly improve food security and nutrition.

Priority 3. Stronger coordination for effective humanitarian response

This includes evidence-based analysis through assessments to inform the Food Security and Livelihoods Cluster of the United Nations system and partners, and humanitarian response programming and coordination of food security and livelihood issues with international and national partners.

FAO Capacity on the Ground and Interagency Collaboration

FAO – We are Staying and Delivering.  Staff safety is paramount and continues to be prioritized. FAO has a team of 81 dedicated experts in FAO Ukraine – 76 national and 5 international team members. FAO and our partners in the Ukraine humanitarian Food Security and Livelihoods Cluster are mobilizing to provide scaled up urgent assistance to shore up food security in Ukraine, as operational space permits.

Our offices, located in Lviv, Kyiv, Kramatorsk, Mariupol and Zaporizhzhia, included staff working on recovery and resilience-building activities. The focus is now on meeting the population’s immediate needs in order to save agriculture-based livelihoods and improve food security and nutrition.

We are working with donors to reprogramme existing work in Ukraine to support agricultural livelihoods and household food insecurity in the rapidly evolving situation and stand ready to provide people with needed support as the situation permits.

We work, as always, in close coordination with tried and tested partners. FAO co-leads the Food Security and Livelihoods Cluster in Ukraine with WFP. FAO is fully engaged in coordination venues at all levels, including the Geneva-based Interagency Operations Cell co-led by OCHA and UNHCR.

With existing team members on the ground backed by dedicated support from regional (based in Budapest) and headquarters teams, technical and operational capacities are being surged to scale up time-sensitive interventions across Ukraine as soon as possible.


The assessment used the FIES survey module: https://www.fao.org/in-action/voices-of-the-hungry/fies/en/