According the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the agro-resource potential of Ukraine enables to produce the agricultural products in volumes to provide food for at least 450-500 million people. Today, these opportunities are used by no more than one third, although Ukraine fully ensures its food security, is the largest producer and exporter of sunflower oil, the world's third-largest exporter of corn, the fourth - barley, the sixth - soybeans, the seventh - chicken
The insufficient use of the existing agro-resource potential is limited by a number of factors, the main of which is non-optimal conditions of natural moisture supply in more than 2/3 of the territory of Ukraine that are constantly deteriorating due to global climate change.
As a result, under conditions of the Steppe and a large part of the Forest-Steppe, effective farming without irrigation became practically impossible, and a real threat of progressive desertification of lands and the transformation of these regions into depressive ones was formed. In the Polissya zone, conditions became favorable for the cultivation of previously uncharacteristic crops for the region (corn, soybean, rapeseed, sunflower), but maximal use of the potential of varieties and hybrids is possible only with simultaneous regulation of soil water regime.
The use of irrigation and drainage allows, regardless of weather conditions, to increase crop yields by 2-3 times compared to rainfed conditions.
Built in Soviet times, a powerful water-reclamation complex in Ukraine that provided irrigation on an area of 2,650,000 hectares and drainage on an area of 3,300,000 hectares is not able to fulfill its role today due to the extremely low utilization of the existing capacities.
In 2017, less than 500 thousand hectares were actually watered, and bilateral water regulation was carried out on the area of more than 250 thousand hectares, which is less than 20% of the available irrigation areas and less than 10% of the available drainage areas.
The unsatisfactory state of use of existing irrigation and drainage potential was formed as a result of incomplete economic relations reform, land reform, privatization of material and technical resources, loss of agricultural product sales markets, imperfect state support mechanisms, incompliance of the existing management system and water use management with the new economic conditions it all leveled the impact of the irrigation and drainage sector on the volumes of the agricultural production
Under these conditions, the restoration of irrigation and drainage is a key tool for development of the agricultural sector and boosting the export potential of Ukraine, minimizing the impact of climate on the processes of socio-economic development of the regions. Realization of this task is possible only through attraction of the investments, including the foreign ones.
The urgent issues that need to be addressed are:
failure of irrigated and drainage systems act as an insurance fund in providing the resource and food to the state in years with adverse weather conditions due to the extremely low use of the existing potential;
impossibility with such level of technology and the potential of varieties and hybrids in the face of climate change produces 80, and in the future more than 100 million tons of grain per year without a significant increase of irrigation areas in the southern region and water regulation in the Polissya zone;
inadequate legislation on water resources management and land reclamation result in unresolved issues that determine the conditions and possibilities for sustainable functioning of the industry on the basis of its decentralization by involving water users to management and operation as the basis for the gradual transfer of the irrigation and drainage sector to self-financing;
imperfect existing structure of water resources management and land reclamation, which is characterized by a high degree of centralization, almost complete disengagement of water users from management and formation of tariffs for water supply and drainage services, insufficient financing due to lack of funds in the state budget that at the same time it is impossible to attract investments in modernization, reconstruction of existing infrastructure and expansion of irrigation areas and water management areas;
uncertainty about the legal status of internal (intracompany) management networks.
Pursuant to the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 50 dated January 27, 2016 “On the establishment of the Coordination Council on the issues of resuming work and developing irrigation systems” work on the development of Irrigation and Drainage Strategy for Ukraine has started. The Coordination Council includes representatives of other ministries, the Parliament, the State Agency for Water Resources, the Academy of Agrarian Sciences, private agricultural enterprises and farmers' associations. Members of the Coordination Council also include a group of national and international experts from the World Bank. The development process of the strategy involved numerous stakeholders, including: members of parliament, representatives of the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food, the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, the Ministry of Regional Development, Construction and Housing and Public Utilities, the State Agency for Water Resources, the Ukrainian Hydro Meteorological Center, Zaporizhzhya, Mykolaiv, Odessa and Kherson regional state administrations and sectors of the State Agency for Water Management in these areas, researchers from the Academy of Agricultural Sciences, agricultural producers, representatives of local government, public representatives, members of parliament and the World Bank experts, the FAO and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The work on the strategy was guided by the Coordination Council with consideration of the interim results at its meetings. The first stage was completed in January 2017, when the Coordination Council approved 15 Principles for the development of a land reclamation strategy in Ukraine to support the process of developing a more detailed strategic document.
Based on these principles, a draft strategy for irrigation and drainage in Ukraine was developed. The draft Regulation of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine “On Approval of the Irrigation and Drainage Strategy in Ukraine” is being approved by the appropriate central executive authorities.