Roots of Peace: Turning Mines Into Vines

Roots of Peace is an organization working to replace landmines with agricultural crops around the world.

Founder Heidi Kuhn was inspired to create the organization by Princess Diana’s famous walk through an active minefield. Kuhn, a cancer survivor and the descendant of generations of Marin County vintners, felt the call to make a difference with her life by restoring landmine infested areas to local farmers. She founded Roots of Peace in 1997 with a glass of wine and a toast: that the world go “from mines to vines.”

What They Do

There are an estimated seventy million landmines in more than seventy countries around the world. Every year 26,000 people die as a result of injuries inflicted by landmines, half of them children. Millions more live under the constant threat of landmines, and are forced to avoid landmine infested areas, restricting travel, ruining livelihoods, and preventing children from playing or attending school.

The Roots of Peace program started in the traditional grape-growing regions of Croatia in 1999, where it has cleared nearly 500,000 square meters of land and replanted them with grapes and other crops.

Today, Roots of Peace works in six countries: Croatia, Angola, Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Roots of Peace takes a holistic approach to its programs that not only helps local residents by removing the daily threat to their lives and safety caused by landmines, it also allows them to regain economic self-sufficiency by restoring the productivity of agricultural lands.

Other Roots of Peace programs help restore human infrastructure, by building schools and other educational facilities, and even benefit wildlife, by helping restore traditional elephant migration corridors in Angola so they are not forced to travel through landmine infested areas or across farmer’s fields, bringing them into conflict with human residents.

In 2010, USAID granted Roots of Peace $30 million to expand its programs in Afghanistan, where it has been helping rebuild the country’s devastated orchards and vineyards since 2003. In the 1960’s Afghanistan was the world’s leading producer of raisins, producing more than 50% of all raisins worldwide, and also grew substantial amounts of pistachios, walnuts, almonds, apricots, pomegranates, and many other fruits and nuts. Many of these rich, productive orchards and vineyards were destroyed by decades of war and terrorist attacks. Worse, farmers lost the knowledge required to tend them. Roots of Peace currently works in 17 of 34 Afghan provinces, removing landmines, replanting orchards, and re-educating local farm families in proper orchard care and maintenance.

How You Can Help

Roots of Peace has a long tradition of partnership with corporations and other organizations. Much of its original funding was provided by Marin County vineyards and wineries. In addition to corporate giving, Roots of Peace also has an established employee giving program.

Another way to help is to participate in the Roots of Peace Penny Campaign. The Roots of Peace Penny Campaign is an annual humanitarian campaign for schoolchildren that has raised more than 30,000,000 pennies to support Roots of Peace’s work around the globe. Learn how to start a Roots of Peace Penny Campaign at your child’s school.

You can also support Roots of Peace by donating directly to the program.

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