Planting the Roots of Peace in Vietnam and Beyond

Heidi Kühn

 

Opinion:

 

As COVID-19 eclipses 3.5 million confirmed cases worldwide, we must reflect on the astonishing toll human-wrought conflict can exact on populations and the earth alike – and the immense collective effort required to fix them.

 

Today, there are an estimated 60 million landmines silently poised in 60 countries awaiting an innocent footstep to detonate at any moment. This year marks the 45th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. While the war has ended from a diplomatic standpoint, its grave legacy lives on in the 100,000 innocent Vietnamese who have been maimed or were killed by UXOs since the end of hostilities – the majority: innocent farmers endeavoring to cultivate crops and children simply chasing a butterfly across a field of flowers or kicking a soccer ball.

 

 

When Roots of Peace began its work in Vietnam to heal the wounds of war and firmly plant sustainable peace through agriculture, over 50,000 American mothers had lost their children in the struggle. In Vietnam, that number was over 3 million.

 

In 2010, I set out on a quest to eradicate all explosive remnants of war and train the farmers to grow high-value crops on former battlefields. Working with support from both the Vietnamese and American governments, we raised private funding to remove millions of unexploded ordinances, and to train over 3,000 farmers to grow black pepper on former battlefields. This fine black pepper is now sold to Morton and Bassett Spice Company and distributed nationally on supermarket shelves featuring the Roots of Peace logo.

 

 

The progress was evident. But after years of work, it was clear that safety could not be assured until the last mine was lifted from the ground. Today, millions of explosive remnants of war remain buried in Vietnam’s soil, resulting in a lethal harvest for innocent farmers born long after the war has ended.

 

The Vietnamese are not alone in facing the scourge of landmines. Worldwide, millions of landmines currently lie hidden in soil that might otherwise be utilized for the creation of crops or placement of shelter. As with COVID-19, landmines represent a large-scale loss of life from an invisible threat. The need for global collaboration to overcome both of them make the nexus clear, as does the passion needed to prevail over them both.

 

 

It will take the type of astounding bravery and enormous sacrifice we are witnessing in frontline workers and medical providers, who are working with COVID-affected patients.

 

This is the time for determination and commitment for the long struggle to overcome COVID-19 and the human toll it has and will continue to extract.  May we emerge from these times with a renewed compassion and sense of hope to heal the earth of landmines and other global health threats.

 

Author Bio:

 

Heidi Kühn is founder and CEO of Roots of Peace, a humanitarian-nonprofit organization founded in 1997 with a vision to transform MINES TO VINES --replacing the scourge of landmines with sustainable agricultural farmland. 

Kühn’s work empowers families living in wartorn regions,  leading to the economics of peace through export and trade. Her numerous awards include the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, World Association of Non-Profit Award, and the National Jefferson Award for Public Service — the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award, and the Gandhi Global Family Seva Award.

 

To learn more, visit: www.rootsofpeace.orgHeidiKuhn.com.

 

About the Book:

 

Breaking Ground: From Landmines to Grapevines, One Woman’s Mission to Heal the World is available in hardcover and eBook at booksellers nationwide and online retailers including amazon.comBarnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

 

Highbrow Magazine

 

Image Sources:

--Courtesy of Heidi Kuhn

--DMCA (Pxfuel, Creative Commons)

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