Today, more than 50 countries worldwide are contaminated by landmines and explosive remnants of war, rendering the land where they lay hidden completely unusable. Landmines kill or injure more than 5,000 people each year, about half of them children. There is a strong correlation between the most marginalized and food-insecure communities and contamination with landmines and unexploded ordnance. Kühn works in these afflicted areas to help those most in need, freeing the land that is held hostage to destructive weapons of war.
“Our mission is to bring opportunity and hope to local populations that once could not walk across their fields for fear of losing a limb or life to these hidden killers which lurk beneath the trusted land. By planting the roots of peace, we restore both the soil and soul, and give rural farmers a chance to build a livelihood, to feed their children and to grow,” said Kühn.
With conflicts proliferating in so many parts of the world, war is a growing threat to farming and food security. An increasing number of nations have found it necessary to confront the daunting challenge of rebuilding food systems, livelihoods and communities after conflict. Kühn’s work transforming “mines to vines” shows the world the vital role agriculture must have in the resilient recovery from conflict and restoration of peace.
Heidi Kühn is the Founder and CEO of Roots of Peace. She founded the humanitarian non-profit organization with a vision of turning Mines to Vines. After winning her own battle with cancer, Kühn was inspired to remove an insidious ‘cancer of the earth’—replacing remnants of war with bountiful farmland worldwide. For more than a decade, she has shown millions of people living in war-torn regions around the world a way forward for restoring peace and prosperity through agriculture.
Heidi Kühn has received multiple awards. Most recently, she was named the 2023 World Food Prize Laureate. She was also given the 2023 Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice by the Harmony Foundation. Previously, she was named University of California at Berkeley Alumni of the Year Award in 2002 for Excellence in Achievement. In 2003 she was inducted into the Marin County Women’s Hall of Fame. In 2005 she was awarded the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations Peace & Security Award. In 2006 she received the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. In 2007, she was bestowed the Jefferson Award and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for Outstanding Public Service– the foremost award for American changemakers. In 2019, Heidi was the first American woman to win the Mahatma Gandhi Global Family Seva Medal in India. She is the proud recipient of the International Women’s Forum (IWF) Making a Difference Award and was honored as one of IWF’s “Ideas Remaking the World” honorees in 2020. In 2021, Heidi’s visionary leadership was acknowledged with her inclusion in the inaugural Forbes 50 Over 50 “Women Who Are Leading the Way in Impact” List. In November 2022, Heidi was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the American University of Afghanistan at a dinner hosted by former First Ladies Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton. In 2023, Heidi was appointed to the Advisory Council of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife & Cultural Heritage.