Grandma vs. Danish agroholding: Long-lasting conflict over the land

UKRAINE/2016-ongoing
Maria Antoniv is not a defenseless old lady as may seem

"The cheeks full of wrinkles covered by a floral pattern scarf inspire the image of a kind of diminutive grandmother from folktales. "Maria Vasylivna is an unexpected, yet fierce eco-activist as of June of 2013. She has been fighting for clean water and free air in her home village threatened by foreign-owned pig farms. The case has even reached the IFC's Office of the Compliance Adviser Ombudsman."

Axzon is a Danish meat production company operating in four countries. It employs almost 2500 workers and sells more than a million pigs annually, with a total revenue of over 200 million euros in 2016. Ukrainian pensioner, Maria Vasylivna Antoniv, has been opposing their local subsidiary Danosha (renamed Goodvalley Ukraine in 2018) for almost 15 years now.

“In the summer, my son and daughter used to swim in the river and catch fish;
they picked up raspberries and slept in a tent. I want my grandsons to do the same. ”

Danosha Ukrainian Market in 2004, through the purchase of an existing pig complex in Kopanky, opened in the Kalush region of Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast.

The very next year. the company wanted to expand on the land of the village of Sivka-Voynylivska; however, the community, led by Maria Antoniv, organized the opposition in order to protect their immediate environment and the nearby River Dniester. The reasons for this were the nearby village of Luka and the awful smell. The water shortage began to develop after Danosha became involved.

Back then, Ukrainian law enabled local referendum that allowed citizens to make binding decisions and to vote unanimously against construction.

"This is our land, and we will keep it healthy and untouched for future generations."

The company pressed charges soon after they were admitted to their legal right to be landed, only for the court to discover the law of Danosha. After that, the company had no other option than to give up the land in Sivka-Voynylivska, saying that they would not have their work or presence in that area.

Respect and trust haven't lasted long

Danosha obtained vast areas of land around the village for growing grain for fodder. Moreover, they have developed the necessary, yet unplanned infrastructure. Thus, the field road has been paved without the consent of the landowners. The pavement took place without people's agreement and nowadays, the road infrastructure is backed by people entering their own land.

In February of 2014, the villagers appealed to the Compliance Adviser Ombudsman (CAO), who oversees projects financed or supported by the International Finance Corporation (IFC). In the complaint, the affected residents of the Ivano-Frankivsk region raised a number of environmental and social concerns about the effects of Axzon/Danosha's pork production operations.

In the following two years, CAO organized a series of trilateral meetings, but with only minor results. Regardless of the fact that they collected data on the water and air pollution themselves, the villagers of Sivka-Voynylivska were not provided with any environmental information proving the company's production does not harm the environment since the representatives of Danosha refused to disclose such documents.

In 2016, the IFC provided the company with yet another loan, the ongoing and unresolved process of mediation, causing the village representatives to terminate the meetings. It was then that community members especially felt the pressure.

"Several complaints from Sivka-Voynylivska reported that she was feeling pressured,

and even under physical threat as a result of their steps against Danosha."

Nowadays, the 68-year-old Antoniv finds it difficult to talk about what she and her family have been through.

Meanwhile, the case has been transferred to the CAO Compliance Review for IFC's performance in the project. Another round of investigations will be conducted by the company, adhering to the required standards in its activities and stakeholder engagement.

"While CAO is unable to determine the veracity of the perceived threat,
it is the safety of the complainants and others that cooperate in the CAO process."

Axzon decided to change its name in 2017. From the end of February 2018 the company, together with all its subsidiaries, including Danosha, will be called ' Goodvalley.'

Recently, the company released plans to expand with more farms in the neighborhood. Luka and the villagers of Sivka-Voynylivska are alarmed again. The fight continues.

Status as of February 2018


Further reading

ENG 10/11/2017 COMPLAINT - CAO Cases: Ukraine / Axzon-01 / Halych and Kalush  (Cao-ombudsman.org)

ENG 30/08/2017 Photogallery: Trip to Danosha pig farms in Ivano-Frankivsk region  (Arnika.org)

UKR 21/08/2017  Ecoaction will help rural communities protect their environment (Ecoaction.org.ua)

UKR 16/08/2017  Danish company Danish company in Kalush region - video  (Golos-info.com)

ENG 03/02/2014 CAO Cases: Ukraine / Axzon-01 / Halych and Kalush >> Documents (Cao-ombudsman.org)

UKR 10.21.2013  The Enemy # 1 for Danish pig farm with an Ukrainian Grandate  (Pryroda.in.ua)