War in Ukraine: UN demining project gives hope to Ukrainian farmers

Война в Украине: проект ООН по разминированию дает надежду украинским фермерам

Ukrainian farmers Vladimir and Lyudmila hope to restore their farm thanks to a mine clearance project. War in Ukraine: UN demining project gives hope to Ukrainian farmers Peace and Security

Not so long ago, Vladimir Korneich and his wife Lyudmila would have been looking forward to spring planting on their farm in Kamenka in eastern Ukraine. For nearly a quarter of a century, the couple grew their agricultural business, growing grains, vegetables and watermelons, as well as raising chickens, cows and pigs. But today their work stopped – and not because of bad weather conditions, but because of min.

“In this village we can only feel safe in our own yard,” says Korneich. “There is danger when you go outside.”

Mines and agriculture

During two years of war, Ukraine became the country with the most mines in the world, overtaking Afghanistan and Syria. About 25 thousand sq. km of farmland are potentially littered with mines and other dangerous munitions left over from the conflict. They killed and maimed hundreds of people.

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In addition to the risk to human lives, landmines threaten agriculture, which affects both the economy and well-being in Ukraine and around the world due to rising grain prices.

Small farmers like Korneich make up three-quarters of the food production workforce. For them, the risks are especially great: many have already stopped their work, and almost all of them have seen their incomes drop significantly.

Mine clearance project

But today, a small plot of Vladimir and Lyudmila’s land has been cleared thanks to a demining project carried out by the World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) with the support of the non-governmental organization Fondation Suisse de Déminage.

Война в Украине: проект ООН по разминированию дает надежду украинским фермерам

The initiative began work in the eastern part of the Kharkov region, with plans to expand to two other leading agricultural regions of Ukraine – the Nikolaev and Kherson regions. The project helps small farms that cultivate less than 300 hectares of land, as well as rural families who keep a vegetable garden for their own consumption.

“By clearing mined land for productive use, we can help restore livelihoods to rural communities and thereby gradually eliminate the need for humanitarian assistance for thousands of families,” said Marianne Ward, WFP’s interim director in Ukraine.

Save destroyed villages

WFP and FAO are implementing a demining project in close cooperation with rural communities and Ukrainian authorities in as part of a large-scale government effort to clean up the land.

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The World Bank estimates that the full cost of demining could exceed $37 billion. However, just one project targeting only small farmers could potentially save up to $60 million that would have been spent on food assistance to rural communities.

A WFP and FAO initiative uses satellite imagery to map suspected mined areas, then sends experts to survey and clear them. Priority is given to potentially productive areas that can be quickly and safely restored. FAO also assesses the specific needs of households and offers financial assistance to residents left destitute by the war.

Война в Украине: проект ООН по разминированию дает надежду украинским фермерам

“This is an opportunity to save devastated and destroyed villages in Ukraine and give them back the breath of life,” commented Nina Yarosh, WFP employee in Kharkov, on the project.

Hopes for revival

Many residents of Kamenka left for safer places, others became victims of the war.

“We have wounded,” Korneich noted, “and people who have no hope left. They have already lost hope that it will ever be safe to walk here.”

Those who remained are gradually depleting their means of subsistence. Korneich’s family lives without heat, electricity or gas. One of his three workers left.

However, now friends and neighbors who left their homes because of the war call Vladimir to ask him about the progress of demining and want to return.

Tatyana Lukyanko was evacuated from Kamenka at the beginning of the war. She returned home in March last year.

“I found two grenades in the basement, one in the yard and another in the flower garden,” she recalls.

Lukyanko will also be a participant in the mine clearance project. Despite the ongoing conflict, she is hopeful about the future.

“I believe that the village will be reborn,” says Tatyana. “It’s a very beautiful village.”


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