November 2001

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PROJECT HARVEST

STATUS

PROJECT HARVEST: This is a co-operative initiative lead by the Armed Forces (AF) in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and local authorities, with the support of SFOR and the IPTF, to remove illegally held weapons, munitions and warlike-materials from circulation. Every weapon and round of ammunition collected and destroyed makes this Country a safer place to live.

A nationwide programme, which began in 1998, was highly successful in helping the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) rid itself of many firearms, munitions and explosive devices. It offered a complete amnesty to anyone who handed in munitions or weapons at centralized collection points, or provided information regarding their whereabouts. Spurred on by the success of the programme, the BiH AF and SFOR decided to repeat it as PROJECT HARVEST in 1999.

Although the BiH AF and local authorities are the lead agencies in PROJECT HARVEST, SFOR has always provided its full support and is ready to supply technical expertise at all levels. Particular attention has always been given to the handing in and reporting of mines, as the habit of dumping mines found whilst farming not only presents a local danger, but also compromises areas that have already been declared clear.
Based upon lessons learned, the emphasis shifted from people bringing ageing and unstable items to collection centres. Instead, SFOR engineers were put on standby to go in and remove devices and reduce the risk to everyone concerned.
PROJECT HARVEST has now been extended indefinitely due to the success of the initial operation and concerns that there is still a large quantity of dangerous material out in the community.

Although SFOR does not have the lead in PROJECT HARVEST, it has continued to commit effort and resources to making it successful.
Typically, an SFOR battle group will begin an information campaign before carrying out an intensified PROJECT HARVEST. This will involve informing and co-operating with local authorities, the BiH AF and, of course, the local population. It is essential that everyone understands the motivation behind the operation, especially in a Country that has recently seen bitter and destructive warfare, and which has long had a culture of owning guns for self-protection and hunting.
PROJECT HARVEST is not without its incumbent risks; SFOR and BiH soldiers and civilians have been killed and injured. This has lead to special training being provided by SFOR to the BiH AF in the handling of unexploded ordnance. Such risks, however, have not lessened the resolve of SFOR and the authorities; on the contrary, PROJECT HARVEST has continued throughout 2001 with renewed and sustained vigour.

Bottom line

Project Harvest has proven to be a highly successful operation but there is still much work to be done. SFOR is determined to continue helping to eliminate this threat.
Efforts thus far in 2001 have already reaped excellent results; 2,652 small arms, 567,793 rounds of ammunition, 9,737 hand grenades, 3,434 mines and 3,536kg of explosive, as well as 6,356 mortars, mortar rounds, rifle grenades and handmade ordnance have been handed in up until August. However, SFOR and its project partners continue to strive to increase collection rates through new initiatives, and by so doing create a safer and securer environment.