Mushroom start-up in Carpathian village goes successful

May 31, 2016

Even the very first community initiative can turn out to be a real success as experience of Putyla settlement in Chernivtsi region shows. A year ago the local community that lives in Carpathian Mountains came up with an initiative to create an agricultural cooperative. “Forest mushrooms and berries are the main source of income in a Carpathian village. Another option is crafting hand-made souvenirs. One can hardy find some other work here,” explains Serhiy Teren, head of the newly created agricultural cooperative “Dary Hutsulshchyny”.

Serhiy and his fellow villages used to collect mushrooms and berries and sell them at the market in Chernivtsi city. Sometimes they sold it to retailers; however, they would get meagre payment. That is why they started looking for the opportunities of selling their ecological products for a decent price without standing for hours at the market. The best solution turned out to be to lend supporting hand to each other and create an agricultural cooperative.

Once the idea was planted. 33 inhabitants of Putyla and neighboring villages volunteered to join the cooperative. With the support of UNDP local development initiative, they purchased what they needed for launching their eco-business, including a blast freezer, a drying chamber, a mushroom slicer, scales, containers for collecting and storing mushrooms and berries, and a freezing chamber for production storage. 25,000 US dollars were allocated by the UNDP and 5,000 US dollars contributed by the community.

Members of the cooperative regulate their workload individually. «There are no strict norms regarding the quantity of mushrooms that each person should collect. It depends on how hardworking you are. One person can collect from 100 kilos up to one tonne during one season.» Even though it is a seasonal business – the berry season starts in June and the mushrooms are collected starting from August – the cooperative members can sell their products all year round. They were selling their first mushroom harvest through the internet and they would start receiving orders from different cities. Seeing the increasing consumers’ interest, they decided to offer their products to a local supermarket and, sure enough, a manager was instantly interested in this exclusive offer with summer boletes and chanterelles as their specialty. In addition to mushroom and berries, the cooperative also produces popular Carpathian herbal teas. All products are sold under their trademark “Dary Hutsulshyny” (Gifts of Hutsulshyna). They also present their products at the traditional festival “Polonynska vatra” organized each spring.

Recently the cooperative has started negotiations with the foreign companies. So their products may soon be supplied to the eco-shops in the neighboring EU countries. The production is growing and the economic opportunities are growing along.

The Community-based approach to local development project (CBA) is co-financed by the European Union and the UNDP in Ukraine, and implemented by UNDP in Ukraine.

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