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Dairy sector promotes rural development

How EkoNiva, the largest raw milk producer in Russia, is making rural areas a truly attractive place to live, enabling young people to start families here instead of chasing a better life in bigger cities.

Alignment with SDGs

AUTHOR

Adrian Schairer EkoNiva-APK Holding • Russia

Abstract

Russia is facing a widely known challenge that is generally referred to as “rural exodus”. Many people move from remote villages to big cities as the living conditions seem to be better there. As a result, especially the elderly, are left behind in the countryside and sometimes those villages disappear completely. 

EkoNiva, the largest raw milk producer in Russia, is represented by its companies in such rural regions. And we are absolutely convinced that agricultural companies are only successful if they cooperate with the rural population and contribute to the successful development of the villages. For us, this means that when looking for employees, we primarily focus on the local population, create good working conditions in dairy industry, pay above-average wages and invest in training and further education. 

For this, in 2018, the company established special agricultural classes at local schools to interest and prepare students for university studies of agricultural sciences. In addition, EkoNiva supports various social projects to maintain and expand the village infrastructure. These measures help to increase the attractiveness of rural life and offer our employees and their families a future in the countryside that is worth living.

The aim of the initiative is to offer existing employees an attractive rural living environment. At the same time, new, well-qualified employees are attracted. For this purpose, the working conditions should be favourable enough to be regarded as advantageous in comparison to other jobs in larger cities. 

Moving the wheel

Different actions have been put in place:

  • Participation in the federal program “Integrated rural development”: EkoNiva was one of the first companies to confirm its willingness to support the project, which is intended to help overcome the main challenges: Access to health care, social services, education, construction of houses and better conditions for the development of infrastructure in rural areas.
  • Co-financing of family homes for employees together with municipalities
  • Internship program for students of agricultural universities (3,233 interns since 2015)
  • In-house training: internal and external seminars, teaching, trips abroad, etc. 
  • Investments into village infrastructure and healthcare facilities
  • Own bus transfer for the dairy industry employees to their workplace
  • Support for sports and creativity associations, schools, and kindergartens, veterans, and people with disabilities
  • Construction of churches, restoration of historical and cultural heritage.

History of success

Our local commitment enables us to meet our demand for skilled dairy industry workers as well as manpower for the operating divisions at all the company’s locations through the local population. The internship programs as well as the training and further education measures have created a pool of motivated and well-qualified employees, which has enabled EkoNiva’s dynamic growth in recent years.

 

EkoNiva employees are well integrated into rural social life, found families, acquire residential property, and take on voluntary work in the village community. As a result, the population decline in some villages was halted or even reversed.

I am very happy that we are participating in this support program, as it offers the opportunity to do even more for our employees and people in rural areas, so that these villages become a truly attractive place to live, enabling young people to start families here instead of leaving their homes for bigger cities in search of a better life.

Stefan Dürr, President of EkoNiva Tweet

A valuable initiative

In the last three years, EkoNiva has invested more than three million euros in charitable causes.

Among others, these funds have been used to finance the renovation of hospitals, the construction, renovation, and preservation of churches as well as historical monuments, support for local sport clubs, kindergartens and schools.

 

Furthermore, EkoNiva has financially supported the opening of a local history museum in the village of Schutche (Liskinski district).

In the Voronezh region the construction of 67 single-family homes for the employees of the subsidiary EkoNiva Agro has already begun and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

New opportunities

In the regions of Ryazan, Orenburg, and Kaluga, EkoNiva will be active from 2020 within the federal program. In total, up to 480 single-family homes are to be built over the next few years, co-financed by EkoNiva, giving employees the opportunity to live close to the company’s dairy cow facilities.

In the Novosibirsk region, the program will address a number of social issues: EkoNiva will purchase the necessary equipment for a local health center, co-finance the construction of a health and fitness center and renovate an outdated water supply system.