Ukraine-Russia conflict sparks global food insecurity, African nations relying on Ukrainian grain imports in crisis.

Wheatfield in Ukraine (Ryzhkov Oleksandr/ Shutterstock)

By Kevin Zupkas

Ukraine has historically been considered Europe’s ‘breadbasket,’ as the grain-rich steppes in Ukraine and Russia account for roughly 23% of the world’s supply of wheat, 64% of its sunflower oil, 19% of its barley, and 18% of its corn. Because of this, many nations in Africa and the Middle East that either lack fertile soil or sophisticated agricultural infrastructure have heavily relied on Ukraine and Russia for their supply of grain.

According to the UN Comtrade database, countries such as Benin and Somalia imported 100% of their grain supply from either Ukraine or Russia, while that figure ranged between 82% and 64% in countries such as Egypt, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Senegal.

So, you get the picture: Ukraine and Russia are major world suppliers of grain––so much so, that many countries particularly in Africa have relied solely on Ukrainian and Russian grain exports as their primary source of food.

It shouldn’t be hard to imagine then how chaos and instability would ensue from food insecurity when you put these two global grain suppliers in a brutal war against each other.

With roughly 71% of Ukraine’s land being used for agricultural use, and roughly 95% of Ukraine’s wheat exports exiting through the Black Sea; occupation and blockade would prove to be catastrophic. About 30% of that farmland is now either occupied or unsafe for further use.

This would devastate not only the Ukrainian economy but especially the African nations which almost entirely rely on Ukrainian grain imports as their primary source of food.

This was and continues to potentially be a global catastrophe. Luckily this was an issue that was recognized by all sides of the conflict, and humanitarian efforts brokered a deal that would allow grain shipments to continue unrestricted began shortly after the war’s outbreak.

An agreement known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative was ratified by the two sides and brokered by Turkey and the United Nations on July 22, 2022. This would help mitigate the mass chaos that would occur in dependent nations, however, shipment rates were still nowhere near the necessary prewar scale to provide the developing world with enough grain. It was under constant threat of being broken by the Russians if the conflict were to ever escalate.

Now, about a year on, grain prices have stabilized after spiking from 50% to 60% at the start of the war. Other countries and regions such as the U.S., Canada and the European Union were able to ramp up grain production to compensate for lost Ukrainian grain. And just this last month on Mar. 18, Russia agreed to extend the deal by another 60 days (although Turkey and Ukraine claimed that it would be extended by 120).

Despite this, the only way to fully ensure food security in the future is to find a way to end this war as soon as possible or to begin the war against climate change so that perhaps one-day developing nations will have the required soil and equipment to produce their own source of food.

Neglected environmental consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  

Thick black smoke covers the sky during the war between Ukraine and Russia. Disaster in Ukraine. – 24 Mar 2023 (Shutterstock)

By Tetiana Kozachanska  

The environmental aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine has largely been overlooked in discussions of the ongoing conflict.  

Scientists and activists around the world have called for the reduction of CO2 emissions to fight climate change. However, the catastrophic environmental consequences caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine have been neglected in this discourse.  

For the past year, the efforts of the international community have been directed to support Ukrainian resistance and to save human lives, although, not much could have been done to support the Ukrainian ecosystem and save the local biosphere.  

In an interview with The New York Times, Doug Weir, the Research and Policy Director at the Conflict and Environment Observatory, highlighted how the environment is frequently impacted by war without receiving sufficient attention or acknowledgment. 

“The environment is the silent victim of conflicts,” said Weir.  

While newspapers often focus on Russia’s crimes against humanity in their headlines, environmental issues often fail to garner public attention and remain largely invisible to the general public.   

As of December 2022, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine reported more than 2200 cases of ecocidethe deliberate destruction of the natural environment.   

These include “the blowing up of fuel and lubricant warehouses, oil product storages with the corresponding consequences for the environment … airstrikes on enterprises that use dangerous chemicals in production … the damage and destruction of treatment facilities, and the spilling of sewage into reservoirs, as well as damage to the ground cover, burning of forests––especially in the territories of the nature reserve fund.”   

The Ministry emphasized that there are no borders from pollution caused by shelling, implying mainly the shared atmosphere and rivers that cross national boundaries.   

A plan to restore the environment after the war’s end is already in development.  

Climate activists from Friday For Future Ukraine attended the Group of Seven (G7) summit–– an organization of the world’s seven largest “advanced” economies, which dominate global trade and the international financial system such as Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States––in Germany in June 2022.   

They demanded an immediate full embargo on Russian fossil fuels, as well as a coal phase-out by 2030, according to their social media. They share the message of dirty money from fossil fuels paying for the genocide of a peaceful nation and organize strikes around Europe to pressure decision-makers.  

Right now, Ukraine is paying an unjust price for the forced war not only by sacrificing human lives but also by its nature.  

Who will pay the price for restoring the fertile land of the country famous for its agriculture––and what is this price? 

Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant: A Looming Threat in Ukraine’s War with Russia.

Photo of Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant (Shutterstock)

By Paul Mitsopoulos

What are nuclear power plants?

About 10% of the world’s energy is generated by nuclear power from 440 reactors. The U.S. is the leading producer of nuclear energy today.

Nuclear power plants have been widely regarded to be a much cleaner source of energy, producing much lower carbon emissions than fossil fuel plants. They reduce the dependence on oil to produce electrical energy.

This process is done through nuclear fission, specifically nuclear reaction, which splits atoms, releasing heat and radiation necessary to produce energy. This process is zero emission and carries a smaller land footprint, meaning that it takes up less space to create similar energy to other low/no emission methods.

However, this type of energy production does not come without its cons.

Nuclear fuels, specifically uranium, are non-renewable. They are a finite material that must be mined. In addition, these facilities are expensive to maintain and require a lot of responsibility.

Nuclear power plants create radioactive waste that must be disposed of properly. And, of course, the elephant in the room: they are not called “nuclear” for no reason. Nuclear power plants have the capability of becoming weaponized.

They have headlined articles and have become infamous for the destruction caused by nuclear meltdowns. Some of the most recent events may sound familiar: Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011). Now there is a new powerplant making the headlines; Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine.

So, it begs the question, does humanity have the maturity to utilize this powerful technology?


Ukraine ranks seventh in countries generating nuclear power. Zaporizhzhia is Europe’s largest nuclear facility and the largest of Ukraine’s four nuclear power plants that provide the country with half of its electricity.

Ukraine’s plants are all operated by a state company called Energoatom, and there are a total of 12 reactors, with six of them in Zaporizhzhia. These plants have been heavily reinforced in concrete containment buildings, heavy protection measures meant to reduce any chances of nuclear tragedies.

Nuclear safety has been a strong emphasis for most countries in the world since the cold war. Although now, Russia’s invasion has made this increasingly more difficult.

Putin, who has openly made nuclear threats in his speeches, has brought instability and risk to Zaporizhzhia since the Russian forces captured it. Missile impacts and attacks launched near the nuclear plant have made operations extremely difficult.

An understaffed and weary Ukrainian team has been struggling. Being responsible for preventing a nuclear meltdown and knowing their lives could be at risk at any second is emotionally tolling for these individuals.

The facility, which is near the front lines of battle, is constantly at risk, with both sides trading the blame with each other.  The plant has recently lost power for the sixth time after a Russian missile attack on critical infrastructure. The plant has been forced to run on emergency power generators multiple times to maintain the plant’s safety and cooling systems that are integral in preventing a nuclear meltdown.

Even more alarming is that the Russian troops have been draining the plants’ water source that is needed to maintain safe temperatures.

Russian and Ukrainian authorities have been at a standstill with neither side able to negotiate a way to properly deescalate this dire situation. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director, Rafael Grossi, has stated his disbelief in the complacency toward resolving this matter.

It is alarming to think of the disaster that Zaporizhzhia could have on the environment. The war that Russia has created poses a looming threat to not only the national identity of Ukrainians but possibly their homes for years to come.

With all the good that nuclear facilities can produce, it is evident that it has been tainted by all the disregard for life that war can bring. If we are to expect to find a way to create a that is sustainable environment, humanity must collectively come together to prevent potential tragedies like Zaporzhzhia.

It is easy to forget about the devastation caused by war on the environment and the threats that it poses in its entirety. If we are to expect to find a way to create an environment that is sustainable, humanity must collectively come together to prevent potential tragedies like Zaporzhzhia.