Farmers in Ukraine are facing a serious threat to their lives and livelihoods as landmines continue to pose a significant danger to those working in the fields. According to the Ukrainian Agri Council (UAC), farmers are being “blown up by mines” every week, while mines are also damaging and destroying agricultural equipment on a daily basis.
The UAC has warned that small farmers who mine fields for sowing on their own are particularly at risk, with catastrophic consequences that can result in loss of life. As a result of this threat, many farmers are choosing to skip the sowing season altogether, which could lead to a food crisis in the country.
The largest area of land contaminated with mines is in the south and east of Ukraine, where some large agricultural enterprises in the Kherson region have already been forced to cancel the spring sowing season. Mines rescuers in Kharkiv, Kherson, and Mykolaiv are receiving tens of thousands of requests for farmland de-mining every week, but due to a lack of resources, the Ukrainian State Emergency Service has warned that the wait could be long for farmers.
The UAC has estimated that around 174,000km2 of land in Ukraine is currently potentially contaminated, which is the source of food for approximately 81 million people worldwide. To address this issue, the UAC has called for international support, stating that humanitarian de-mining of Ukrainian territories requires ten times more specialists trained to international standards than are currently working in Ukraine. The World Bank estimates that the full range of humanitarian de-mining activities in Ukraine will cost about $37.4 billion, with $1.5 billion needed for surveying and prioritizing the de-mining of agricultural land alone.
Currently, the cost of de-mining ranges from $600-3,500 or more per hectare, which is unaffordable for the farms that need it the most. Without de-mining, dairy farmers will not be able to prepare enough roughage for their livestock and will be forced to significantly reduce or even close their business. Vasyl Kalgan, a farmer in the Kharkiv region, said that if there is no de-mining, they will completely lose not only the livestock sector but also the farm as a whole. He added that they do not have a single field that has been explored and that the stocks of fodder for cows will last only until July this year. He emphasized that it is critical to clear the fields of mines during the summer to give them a chance to save the farm.
The UAC has called on the international community to work together to solve this problem and save the world from a food crisis, as well as to protect the lives of Ukrainian civilians from the deadly danger posed by mined areas. The situation is urgent, and the consequences of inaction could be dire for both the farmers and the wider population that relies on Ukraine for its food supply.