Grandam 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 diminutive grandmother from folk tales. However, you should not underestimate the 63-year-old Maria Vasylivna.” That’s how local media described this unexpected yet fierce eco-activist in June 2013. She has been fighting for clean water and odour free air in her home village threatened by foreign-owned pig farms. The case has even reached the IFC's Office of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman.

 

 


Axzon is a Danish meat production company operating in four countries. It employs almost 2,500 workers and sells more than a million pigs annually with total revenue exceeding 200 millions euros in 2016.

Ukrainian pensioner Maria Vasylivna Antoniv has been opposing their local subsidiary Danosha for almost fifteen years now.

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

Danosha has entered Ukrainian market in 2004 through buying existing pig complex in Kopanky, Kalush region of Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast.

The very next year the company wanted to expand to the Sivka-Voynylivska village lands, however, the community led by Maria Antoniv organised an opposition in order to protect their closest environment and the nearby river Dnister. The reason for this was the alarming example of the nearby Luka village and the awful smell and water shortage they started experiencing after Danosha’s involvement.

Back then, Ukrainian law enabled local referendums allowing citizens a binding decision and therefore voting unanimously against the construction.

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

The company pressed charges soon after since they believed in their legal right on those lands only for the court to discover Danosha's multiple legal breaches during obtaining the lease from the village council. After that, the company had no other option than to give up the lands in Sivka-Voynylivska saying that they will not force their work and presence in this area since "the values ​​of the company are based on partnership with the locals, mutual respect and trust".

Respect and trust haven't lasted long

Danosha obtained vast lands around the village for growing fodder grains. Moreover, they developed needed yet unplanned infrastructure, thus, the field road became paved without any consent of the landowners. The widening of the road was made without peoples's agreement and nowadays, the supporting road infrastructure prevents people from entering their own land plots.

Since the direct discussions with the company were ineffective, in February 2014, the villagers appealed to the Compliance Adviser Ombudsman (CAO) who oversees projects financed or supported by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) such as the ones of Danosha. In the complaint, affected residents of the Ivano-Frankivsk region raised a number of environmental and social concerns about the impacts of Axzon/Danosha pork production operations.

In the following two years, CAO organized series of trilateral meetings, sadly, with only minor results. Regardless collecting number of data on water and air pollution themselves, the Sivka-Voynylivkanians were not provided with any environmental information proving the company’s production does not harm the environment since representatives of Danosha refused to disclose such documents.

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

"Several complainants from Sivka-Voynylivska reported feeling pressured
or even under physical threat as a result of their actions against Danosha."

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

Meanwhile, the case has been transferred to CAO Compliance Review for appraisal of IFC’s performance related to the project. Another round of investigation will be conducted on whether the company adhered to requested standards in its activities and stakeholder engagement.

"While CAO is unable to make a determination about the veracity of the perceived threat,
CAO takes the safety of complainants and others that cooperate in a CAO process seriously."

Axzon decided to change its name in 2017. From the end of February 2018 on the company with all it’s subsidiries including Danosha will be called ‘Goodvalley’.

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

Status as of February 2018


Further reading and sources:
ENG 09/11/2017 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 The community tries to resist Danish company 'Danosha' in Kalush region - video (Golos-info.com)
ENG 03/02/2014 CAO Cases: Ukraine / Axzon-01/Halych and Kalush >> Documents (Cao-ombudsman.org)
UKR 21/10/2013 The #1 enemy for Danish pig farm is an Ukrainian grandam (Pryroda.in.ua)