Environmental Devastation of War: The Impact on Ukrainian Farms and food security
Updated: Apr 22
War and conflict have devastating effects on the environment, as is evident from the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The presence of exploded and unexploded munitions, chemical spills, and heavy weapons has caused critical environmental damage to Ukrainian farmland, threatening global food security.
Ukraine is the world's biggest exporter of sunflower oil (accounting for about 50% before the war. It was the third largest exporter of corn, barley and rape seed accounting for about 11% of world production. It accounts for 8.5% of the world's wheat making it the fifth most significant source. The World Food Programme estimate that about 400 million people rely on Ukraine for their food supply. One consequence of the war has been a worldwide rise in prices of foodstuffs.
The consequences of the war on the environment in Ukraine are widespread and long-lasting, affecting future generations of the region. 55% of Ukraine's land is arable, and before the war this contributed to 12% of the GDP and as much as 20% if one includes the food processing industry. Agricultural products were Ukraine's most important export in 2021, totalling $27.8 billion.
The agricultural sector provided employment for 14% of Ukraine's population.
The environmental challenges faced by Ukrainian farms and farmland due to the conflict include water pollution, soil contamination, deforestation, wildlife loss, and air pollution. These challenges have significant economic and health consequences, with long-term exposure to hazardous chemicals and pollutants likely to lead to chronic illnesses among civilians and military personnel.
While there are mechanisms for reparations and compensation for environmental damage caused by war and conflict, their effectiveness is limited. Factors such as the difficulty of assessing and quantifying environmental damage, the lack of political will to provide compensation, and challenges in implementing reparations programs in conflict-affected areas contribute to these limitations.
The urgent need to decontaminate Ukrainian farmland and prevent further environmental damage highlights the importance of mapping, monitoring, and prioritizing the remediation of farmland.
In a future blog, we will delve deeper into the particular challenges of addressing farmland remediation and its implications for food security.
It is crucial to acknowledge the devastating impact of war on the environment and take concrete steps to mitigate its consequences. By doing so, we can protect the natural resources of conflict-affected regions and support the health and well-being of affected communities.