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Chicago Financial Expert Volunteers in Ukraine

Val Sigaev, Director of PFGBEST Russian Division in Chicago, IL, recently returned from a volunteer assignment in the Ukraine where he trained grain farmers in risk management and hedging techniques. Sigaev’s trip was part of a project with CNFA, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering people and enterprises in the developing world. Sigaev, whose family originally hails from Ukraine, was motivated to share his expertise with needy farmers in his ancestral country. He conducted three training session for farm managers in the towns of Bobrynets, Kirovograd and Kherson oblast. Though Sigaev had previously visited Ukraine on several occasions, he had never been to some of these agricultural areas and so he enjoyed exploring these regions.

Val has accumulated significant experience in the financial sector in Chicago and its surroundings where he has practiced market analysis, hedging, risk management and brokerage for years. During his assignment, he conducted three training sessions for the managers of his primary host’s farm, for the managers of other grain-producing enterprises and for the directors of the Ukrainian Commodity Boards of Trade. Sigaev also assessed the risks for Ukrainian grain producers during the sessions. Though he noted that the farmers had no prior experience in these techniques, he found that they were eager to learn and to incorporate risk management and hedging into their business practices.

Sigaev also introduced his audience to the market for futures and options. He encouraged all the participants to visit the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade, the New York Mercantile Exchange and the PFGBEST office and trading room in Chicago to learn from their practices.

Besides his professional interaction with the farmers, Sigaev also built personal relationships with some of them, such as his primary host who he found “warm and friendly”. Additionally, Sigaev was impressed by the eagerness to learn that he encountered, he found the Ukrainian business mindset to be developing, ambitious, and hungry for knowledge. He was enthusiastic to contribute to the desire for improvement by teaching farmers new techniques that would reduce their vulnerability and introduce them to more modern ways of doing business. Further, Sigaev enjoyed being in Ukraine in December, a few weeks prior to the presidential election, which allowed him to experience the “electrifying” buzz that filled the air in the lead up to a decisive presidential election.

Val Sigaev traveled to Ukraine under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Farmer-to-Farmer Program, which provides voluntary technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, and agribusinesses in developing and transitional countries to promote sustainable improvements in food processing, production, and marketing. Founded in 1985, CNFA is dedicated to strengthening agricultural markets and empowering entrepreneurs in the developing world. CNFA is now recruiting for many similar volunteer assignments. Please visit www.cnfa.org/farmertofarmer for a list of available opportunities and to find out how you can become a Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer.