A Bury man has been leading a mission to help Ukrainian farmers clear landmines in the war-torn country.

Jon Cunliffe who was born in Bury, heads up the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) demining task force in the east European country.

After Russia’s invasion in February 2022, Ukraine has become the most heavily mined country in the world, overtaking countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The dad-of-one and former nurse has carried out humanitarian work in many of the world’s most hazardous trouble spots, including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen before he was deployed to Ukraine last May.

Around 156,000sq/km of agricultural land has been rendered too dangerous to farm, and as Ukraine is a top grain exporter, the situation has made global food insecurity a growing problem.

Manchester based MAG and Scottish demining charity The HALO Trust have been using £11.6m of UK government funding to bring land mined by Russian forces back into productive use.

Read more: Bury Food and Drink Festival expected to be 'landmark event'

Jon said: “Demining is not just saving lives and reviving farmers’ livelihoods in Ukraine – our work also helps feed people all over the world.

“Ukraine is one of the most world’s most important grain exporters, so this war has had a serious knock-on effect for the poorest countries.

“Since this war erupted, the price of a loaf of bread has probably gone up 10 or 20 pence in the UK.

"If you think how British people are feeling the pinch from the cost-of-living crisis, in the world’s poorest countries, that increase in price is even more devastating.

“People are suffering worldwide from increased grain prices because Ukraine’s agricultural land is strewn with landmines and unexploded ordnance so too dangerous to farm.

“The pressure to get that land back into productive use is not just from Ukrainian farmers and its government, but from the international community as well. I am proud our demining work can make such a difference.”

Ukraine’s production of grain and oilseeds decreased by 37 percent in 2022 according to UN and partners’ Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment.

He described his experience of the war as a "surreal paradox" with soldiers ordering McDonalds takeaways to eat on the frontline.

Read more: Bury Agricultural Show returning to Burrs this summer

He said: “It is strange to be operating in a conflict so close to home. Ukraine is very much a European country.

“It’s just a two-hour flight from the UK to Krakow on the border with Ukraine.

“Despite the war, the trains run absolutely on time and the food is amazing here. I’ve never had a bad meal.

“It is just a surreal paradox that you can be living normal life and 20km away there’s people dying in fighting. Guys can literally go to McDonalds and take their burgers back to the front line.

“But everybody’s traumatised by this war. I’ve got a driver who has lost two of his brothers on the front line already.

“Many of our staff have lost family or friends – either through air strikes or on the front line. So many people have lost their homes.”

Read more: Friends to walk Hadrian’s Wall for Bury mental health charity

Jon also said there is clear evidence of booby-trapping and the mixing of mines happening.

These tactics are highly complicated to deal with and are extremely dangerous.

Despite operating in such a hazardous environment, Jon says his wife Nathalie and 17-year-old daughter Sam have got used to his life as a humanitarian hero.

He said: “I’ve worked on every humanitarian emergency you can think of since 1997.

“Because I’ve been at it so long and my wife is an ex-aid worker as well, the reaction of my family and friends is not too bad. The people around me are as relaxed as you can be about my work.

“When your 17-year-old daughter doesn’t pick up the phone when you ring, you know they are not fretting too much.

“I wouldn’t want it any other way. I know that they are proud about what I do.”