Farmers in Ukraine are facing the momentous challenge of demining their fields before planting season begins. The Kherson region in southeast Ukraine is home to thousands of hectares of agricultural land filled with unexploded devices after Ukrainian troops repelled Russian forces.
However, for many, these fields serve as their main source of income.
Mykhailo, a tractor driver, said he regularly finds unexploded devices when he ploughs his fields. It took him four days to inspect his 250-hectare plot while Oleh Ushkalo, a farm worker from Potemkino, said his village was under occupation and continuously bombarded by Russian shells.
“We won’t go to the field without a de-mining certificate, because people have been blown up in the neighbouring village, a farmer thought of de-mining it by himself, and he went there with a mine detector,” explained Ushkalo.
Russian occupants lived on the farm, they dismantled and looted machinery and also destroyed wheat in the hangar.
“The field is everything to us. Even for us… We are responsible for 150 shareholders. We have to pay rent to these people. Well, this year we will not pay anything – force majeure, the war,” he added.
Combat engineers, at the request of the locals, are on hand to de-mine the land and discovered an anti-tank mine in a field in the Mykolaiv region.
Andrii Litvinov, another farmer said: “We tried to do it on our own, with some help from guys in their free time, sappers. We found about 300 charges, which the guys collected, eliminated, and detonated.”
In Kherson, they have yet to begin their work as the priority is to clear explosives from critical infrastructure.
Some two and a half million hectares of agricultural land in Ukraine will need to be inspected for explosives. 800,000 of them are prioritised for planting. But mass demining requires special equipment which the country needs from international partners.
By the end of March 2023, experts predict that a third of mined fields in the Mykolaiv, Kherson, and Kharkiv regions will be cleared and sown.
Farmers in Kherson will be able to sow some 30% of their agricultural land on liberated territories on the right bank of the Dnipro River.