What do landmines and hunger have in common? “Not much,” I hear you say.
Wrong. Around the world, 795 million people still don’t have enough to eat. The causes are many, but one — too often overlooked — is the fact that people cannot access land to grow crops or graze animals because that land is contaminated with the deadly legacy of past wars.
In places like Zimbabwe, Angola and Cambodia, entire communities are reliant on farming — but also live precariously close to minefields. They either risk their lives to pursue their traditional livelihood and feed their families, or they don’t farm at all for fear of landmines. That’s a choice no one should have to make.
Canada used to be a leader on mine action. Twenty years ago this December, the Mine Ban Treaty was signed in Ottawa, a demonstration of Canadian leadership in a global effort to rid the world of this indiscriminate weapon.
The treaty is one of most successful in the world: 162 countries have signed, global production of anti-personnel landmines has all but halted, and vast stockpiles have been destroyed. To date, 30 states have been declared mine-free — including Mozambique, formerly one of the most heavily-mined countries in the world.
That’s the good news. The bad news is the world’s attention has shifted away from the landmine crisis and 60 million people still live in fear today.
In Zimbabwe, the poorest people live in rural areas and depend on farming to make a living. But in some rural communities, one household in three has lost livestock to mine accidents. The animals most commonly killed are cattle; in addition to the loss of meat and milk, the household loses manure, the ability to till their soil and to transport crops to market. This can devastate a family economically.