Heidi Kuhn is doing her best to turn the world’s killing fields into tilling fields. Roots of Peace (www.rootsofpeace.org), the nonprofit she founded, helps fund landmine removal in countries like Afghanistan, Angola and Croatia and replace them with grapevines. “Vines are an icon for peace respected world-wide, and in many religions. The Bible says, `They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks,'” she notes, adding that landmines kill or injure an estimated 20,000 people a year.
The San Rafael, California-based group has raised over $15 million for its Mines to Vines program from donors like Silverado Vineyards, Grgich Hills, Cakebread Cellars, Beringer and J Winery, and in 2006 Kuhn won both the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship from the Skoll Foundation—created by eBay’s first president, Jeffrey Skoll—and the Bay Area Jefferson Prize for Public Service. Kuhn, whom former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan praised for “replacing the seeds of death with the seeds of life,” has met with lead Afghan president Hamid Karzai and Angola’s first lady, Ana Paula Dos Santos, to further the cause Princess Diana so eloquently championed before her untimely death a decade ago. In Croatia, six villages have been demined and their wine industry is being revived. But in Afghanistan needs are more basic: Roots of Peace educates farmers on the Shomali Plains north of Kabul that grapes are an alternative to growing poppies for opium, and teaches the importance of pruning, trellising and cold-chilling to improve their harvest, as well as introducing farmers to potential export markets in India and Dubai.