MAG Means Farming
Agriculture is a potent force for alleviating poverty from developing nations.
Incomes of those who farm for a living grow more so then those in any other sector of the workforce and lifts the largest number of people out of poverty than any other sector could. It accounts between 30 to 60 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the world's least developed countries, while also employing almost 70 percent of people in developing nations. It also is the biggest form of foreign exchange for developing countries and supplies the bulk of basic foods and sustenance to half the population in their respective countries.
Farming is also a basic necessity for individuals in developing countries. Without other sources of income or an infrastructure to transfer food to remote communities where people could buy food at the markets, families eat what they grow. Or they starve.
While farming is a major component to development, it can be a danger to those working in the fields due to past remnants of war like unexploded ordnance (UXO) and landmines. When a farmer is hoeing a field, or cows are grazing in the meadows, or a child is harvesting corn for their father, a danger is always lurking on the ground below their feet.
The Effect of Landmines and UXO on Farmland
Most of the countries were MAG works are developing nations whose populations rely on subsistence farming to just survive and only dream of a time when they can farm enough to sell the excess. If they can sell the excess crops, maybe they can buy livestock. If they have livestock, maybe they can have more money for their children's education. It is a wonderful dream that cannot become a reality until the land is cleared.
MAG has been working in Laos since 1994 to provide people to safe access to agriculture, water, roads and infrastructure. However, from the 1960s to the 1970s, over 1.4 million tons of weaponry was dropped on Laos, making it one of the most heavily contaminated countries in the world and leaving miles of land unusable for agriculture.
The village of Thapha relies on the rice crop each year as a staple in their diet. However, due to a crop outage each year for three months, they would go hungry, calling this time the Hungry Season. In order to make a second harvest each year and eliminate the Hungry Season, an irrigation system needed to be constructed between two fields. Unfortunately, this was impossible because the land needed was scattered with UXO. MAG was able to clear 263 explosive items from the area from 2007 to 2008. This paved the way for Triangle, MAG's development partner, to build an irrigation system on the cleared land. Now the village of Thapha will never have a Hungry Season again.
Landmines and UXO were often laid on and around fields during past conflicts and present a threat and hurtle to communities today. Huge chunks of land are marked unusable, displacing farmers from their land, forcing whole villages to become dependent on outside sources for food and leaving many people out of work. Communities are becoming unsustainable due to their reliance on outside food sources and supplies because they do not have safe access to their own lands. Farmers are sometimes forced to use land they know is dangerous, because of their unavoidable reliance on their farmland's income for their family and their village.