Ksenia Sydorkina, Deputy Director of the USAID “Agriculture and Rural Development Support” Project, tells about a unique digital system for accounting land and other hromada resources, investment attraction and 79 hromadas to become participants of the international technical assistance programme.
By Dmytro Synyak
About a month ago, during public discussions, residents of the Palanska AH of the Cherkasy Oblast got acquainted with a unique digital system of land resources’ accounting, based upon the GIS-technologies. Decentralisation.gov.ua asked Ksenia Sydorkina, Deputy Director of USAID “Agriculture and Rural Development Support” Project, about further plans to extend the experience of the Palanska and Kiptivska hromadas throughout Ukraine and tried to find out if the hromadas could independently implement such projects without donors’ support.
Are you satisfied with the results of the pilot projects in Kipti and Palanka?
- Absolutely. Speaking with representatives of different amalgamated hromadas, we heard that they often only approximately know about available hromada resources and their potential for use. Therefore, on the one hand, you need to “open your eyes” to hromada resources. On the other hand, there should be qualified managers on the ground. Now we are talking about expanding this successful experience to a number of hromadas.
Tell us more about this format. What is its feature?
- Gathering of information about land resources is just the first step. In the process of GIS creation, the hromada, by engaging a wide public and business community into debates and decision-making, accumulates information on available infrastructure and utility facilities, restriction zones and nature protection facilities, on promising areas of resource use, on workforce, on the level of personnel’s education, etc. The practice we have introduced in Ukraine is very common in the developed countries of Europe and North America.
What is the budget of the project?
- In order not to mislead AH representatives, who are potentially considering the implementation of this approach, I would not focus much on the budget of exactly our project. Firstly, our budget includes a number of factors for preparatory work, pilot testing, and lessons learnt: what works and what does not. Secondly, when we talk about pilot implementation in the Kiptivska AH – this is one sum, and in terms of the Palanska AH – this is another sum, and the project implementation for almost 80 partner AHs with lessons learnt – this is already an absolutely different budget. I can put it as follows: taking into account project costs, the pilot implementation in the Kiptivska and Palanska AHs cost about USD 40 thousand.
Having seen digital maps on the Internet, will the investor understand that everything is honest and transparent in this hromada?
- I will answer as a person, who has worked in the field of direct foreign investment attraction for 15 years: investors are constantly looking for new sites for their projects, and Ukraine has a huge potential for attracting investors, but has some disadvantages that hinder the realisation of this potential. By the way, land plot availability is not a decisive factor for an investor. Much more important is the question of whether the hromada has sufficient human resources, of what is the profile of these people, their qualifications, and also of whether local authorities are interested in investments.
Many hromadas are currently allocating certain land plots for dairy plants, amusement parks, farms, water slides and are waiting for the "target investor". But the investor always comes with his own ideas about what his business should be like. It turns out that there is no benefit from hromadas’ vision on this topic.
- Local authorities' plans for specific commercial projects are of minor importance to the investor. It is much more useful to analyse the available resources (location, land and infrastructure, workforce and level of personnel’s qualification) and plan the business types that have a development prospect here, taking into account these identified factors. Therefore, I would advise hromadas to focus on determining the profile of certain areas instead of wondering where to place future non-existent companies.
Farhad Ghaussy, Director of the Economic Growth Office at USAID, during public discussions at the Palanska AH, said that “the US Agency for International Development has decided to expand its support of the Ukrainian amalgamated hromadas and introduce Palanka’s model in another 60 AHs in Ukraine”. What exactly did he mean?
- After lengthy discussions, we decided to include 79 instead of 60 AHs in this programme, their detailed list was published last Friday. All partner AHs will work on creating prerequisites for attracting investments, based upon understanding of the economic potential of available resources and ability to plan their use transparently and rationally. Moreover, 10 of them will receive a complete digital system of land resources’ accounting using GIS technologies, the same as in Palanka and Kipti. We will also help in the creation and implementation of at least two investment projects in each of these hromadas and will take an active part in developing their economic profile.
What exactly will specialists from 79 AHs study?
- The training will have several levels for various specialists: land managers, economic development and strategic planning specialists.
In general, there are more than 800 AHs in Ukraine. That is, 79 AHs are just a drop in a bucket.
- It is worth getting priorities straight. The international technical assistance projects do not have the resources to solve absolutely all problems in one or another field, and this is not their task. Their task is to build capacity.
Why have you, in fact, selected amalgamated hromadas for cooperation?
- The reason is very simple: if hromadas amalgamated, then an AH has an asset and there is a political will to make changes. And there is financial strength and appropriate human resources to implement the initiative.
What should hromadas that did not get into the “list of 79” do?
- Our project has developed a practical toolkit with which the land surveyor in any AH with the support of local authorities can implement such a project. Besides, our GIS portal has a lot of reserved workplaces, and any hromada can connect to it free of charge by downloading their own maps.
Do you plan to repeat the training course for other hromadas?
- Our project runs until 2020, and by this time we are fully loaded with work. Therefore no new projects are foreseen. Though we are already thinking about creating online learning tools.
Apparently, it is much easier for USAID to get all the necessary documents from the StateGeoCadastre than for an average AH? Therefore, if the hromada works without USAID’s umbrella, data collection may be delayed for an indefinite period of time.
- From the outset, we stated that we provide exclusively expert, advisory, financial support. So all the necessary documents were received by hromadas on their own.
How should your project change Ukraine?
- I have already mentioned that in ten hromadas, where we will create a turn-key system, we also plan to launch at least 20 investment projects. These hromadas will be the engines of change. The second group will include 69 AHs to be trained by us and, hopefully, to later create digital accounting systems for land resources as well.
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