Farm animals are helping families in Ukraine kick-start small businesses after four years of conflict which have seen jobs lost and homes destroyed.

Dozens of families from the regions of Donetsk and Zaporizhia in the country’s east received about 40 Swiss francs each from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to get their projects off the ground.

Investing in animals and small-scale farming has been top of the list for the majority of the 164 families taking part in the livelihoods scheme.

Big plans for small farm

Oksana, who was forced to leave her home in Makeyevka four years ago, has used the cash buy to rabbits and chickens.

“We bought chickens and have just started selling our second batch. We also bought three rabbits to breed and now we have 23,” the mother-of-three said.

“Now, we are financially stable, not hungry and our livestock is fed. Next, we’re planning to have geese and ducks. We plan to have a whole little farm.”

Photo: Nataliia Krynytska / Ukrainian Red Cross

Beekeeping, growing vegetables, cheese-making and milk production are also being set up by other families in a bid to ensure they have enough food and can generate an income.

Yana is a former nursery teacher from Makeyevka. She moved with her three children to Lyman in Donetsk at the start of the conflict. She already has several cows and now, with the support of the IFRC and Ukraine Red Cross, a warm shed for them to live in during the winter. And soon, she will start milking and making cheese and cream.

She said: “We sell and eat our own food. The children love our milk, cheese and cottage cheese – all homemade, natural products.”

Cash support for food reaches thousands

A further 2,500 families in Donetsk and Zaporizhia regions have also received 20 Swiss francs per month for four months to buy food and essentials as part of the IFRC and Ukraine Red Cross programme.