Lebanon has the highest proportion of cultivable land in the Arab world. Indeed, the region has a long history of agricultural activity. There is evidence that as far back as 8,000 years ago, people living in today’s Lebanon cultivated fruit trees, and around 5,000 years ago, were some of the first to produce wine.
Agriculture is still an important sector of Lebanon’s economy. But for decades now, much arable land there has been inaccessible due to heavy contamination with landmines and unexploded ordnance.
Between 1975 and 1990, Lebanon was wracked by a civil war that also saw 12 years of occupation of portions of its territory by its southern neighbor, Israel. Since 1975, landmines and unexploded ordnance have killed more than 900 people and injured thousands. “People in many parts of Lebanon face daily dangers from these deadly hazards,” wrote Assistant Program Manager for the Middle East in the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Patrick Shea, in a recent blog post.
“The United States has long been committed to promoting peace and security in Lebanon and has invested more than 60 million dollars in assistance to safely clear unexploded munitions, save lives through risk education and outreach, and support the Lebanese Mine Action Center to receive advanced training.”
“By supporting the work of implementing partners like Mines Advisory Group, and coordinating with other donors through mechanisms such as the Mine Action Support Group,” writes Mr. Shea, “the United States is not only making a difference in the lives of ordinary Lebanese but is contributing to international security by removing explosive materiel that could fall into the hands of extremists or terrorists.”