Taras and Vadym are brothers who survived a traumatizing trafficking experience. With few opportunities at home, they decided to seek work in the Russian Federation. “The stay or go question dominated our minds after we graduated from the agricultural university,” Vadym says. Lured by one of the recruitment agencies, an industry that is poorly regulated in Ukraine, both found themselves trapped in forced labour exploitation. The safe return home did not put an end to their suffering, as both continued to struggle with post-traumatic stress symptoms. “Being broke in your home country, having gone through such torment abroad, is a deadly psychological mix,” says Taras. Both realised that to safeguard themselves against similar situations, they needed to find opportunities at home.
IOM Ukraine’s Economic Empowerment Programme for trafficking survivors, supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), provided them with the much-needed opportunity to set new goals. After a six-day business training, Vadym and Taras developed a business plan for a fish farm, which they successfully defended, and received an in-kind grant to start their business. “Ukraine is a country rich in natural resources that need to be properly used and valued,” says Vadym.
Vadym and Taras present their business plan at the defence session
The fish farm is an unprecedented case of entrepreneurship for the village where the brothers were born. “There were three community-owned natural ponds in our village which were unused and in poor condition. The fish farm became a win-win project for us and for the community,” Vadym explains. Taras and Vadym signed a long-term lease with the village council for three cascading ponds totalling 4.3 hectares and used their grant to clean them up and stock with young fish.
The ponds are being stocked with nearly three tons of assorted juvenile fish
“This business is hard, but rewarding both financially and emotionally,” says Vadym. By emotional reward Vadym is unambiguously referring to the beautiful nature they are surrounded by. “Thanks to the IOM Programme we found ourselves back at home. We left this place because of hopelessness and now we are back in a different capacity, with new opportunities and full of hope” adds Taras.
The two brothers are kept busy, as the fish require timely feeding. Inspection of the pond’s health is needed regularly, as well as guarding the territory.
Feeding process. After a while the forage covers the pond surface like a blanket
A year after they started operations, Taras and Vadym are selling fish to the local market and gradually increasing their income, as their fish population is constantly growing. The start-up has quickly turned into a family business that also employs the brothers’ uncle and cousin.
The ponds yielded nine tons of fish in 2017 alone
Next year Taras and Vadym will start offering camp sites near the ponds and fishing permits, which will bring them additional income.
At the campground visitors will be able to ride boats, enjoy nature and grill fresh fish from the pond
Between January-November 2017, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Mission in Ukraine identified and assisted 1,038 victims of trafficking (VoTs) who suffered from forced labour and sexual exploitation in 23 different countries, including Ukraine. This represents an increase of 30% compared to the victims identified in January-November 2016. IOM Ukraine has provided holistic reintegration assistance to almost 14,000 victims of trafficking since 2000 including legal aid, medical care, psychological counselling, family support, vocational training and additional assistance based on individual needs, which provides for sustainable recovery. Almost 900 former victims have benefited from IOM’s Economic Empowerment Programme, creating hundreds of new jobs and contributing tens of thousands of hryvnias in local taxes.