United Nations International Day of Peace
On September 21, 1997, I made a prophetic toast ‘May the world go from MINES TO VINES…’
This sacred moment occurred only three weeks after the tragic death of the late Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed in in a Paris tunnel. During her final year of life, Princess Diana had catapulted the issue of landmines to the forefront of the international agenda by walking through the minefields of both Angola and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The concept of transforming minefields into thriving vineyards and orchards seemed fitting.
The Commonwealth Club of San Francisco asked me to host a reception for advocates of landmine removal, and over 100 guests filled the living room of our Kuhn family home as we listened to the inspiring words of Jerry White, a landmine survivor, who had just returned from Princess Diana’s funeral in London after escorting her through the minefields of the Balkans. As Jerry removed his prosthetic leg when entering our home, I realized that something had to be done.
As a mother of four children, I deeply resonated Princess Diana’s legacy to eradicate landmines worldwide.
It takes only eight pounds to detonate a landmine; which is the average weight of a newborn baby. The scales of justice seemed unfair—especially when children may not roam the earth without the fear of landmines beneath their tiny feet while kicking a soccer ball out of bounds, picking flowers, or chasing butterflies on war-torn lands.
And, so I set out on a quest to turn MINES TO VINES—replacing minefields with thriving farmland for sustainable peace. Napa Valley vintners Robert Mondavi, Miljenko ‘Mike’ Grgich, Tor Kenward, Eric Wente, Diane Disney Miller, and many others joined me in this vision to create a landmine free world.
A month after the toast, the same individuals in my family home won the Nobel Peace Prize shared with Jody Williams and the ICBL (Interntational Campaign to Ban Landmines). In December 1997, Three California vintners joined me in Canada to witness the signing of the Ottawa Treaty to Ban Landmines. While the United States was not a signatory, we went as farmers respecting the plight of those who could not celebrate a harvest of hope.
Over the years, the date of September 21st has since become the United Nations International Day of Peace.
As a student of University of California at Berkeley during the 1970’s, we envisioned a world of ‘peace and love’ as we danced to the music of Earth, Wind and Fire, “Do You Remember the 21st Day of September?’
Beyond 21, we are now celebrating the 22nd Anniversary and we reflect upon our many accomplishments and the importance of turning ‘ideas into reality’. As we have learned, never giving up on your dreams.
The MINES TO VINES vision has led us on a journey to heal the wounds of war in Afghansitan, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, Croatia, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
Roots of Peace continues to define the ‘economics of peace.’ Over five million fruit trees are planted, and now bear fruit to be exported to new markets benefiting traders and farmers resulting in sustainable peace.
We partnered with UNEP (United Nations Environmental Program) and signed a proclamation that ‘Landmines are an Environmental Concern’. And, as the United Nations Climate Action Summit occurs this weekend, we understand the effects of torrential rains which wash landmines through the mud creating virtual minefields which place the innocent footsteps of farmers and children at risk.
Over the past 22 years, we have overcome many obstacles and remained focused on our mission.
Despite a Taliban attack on March 28, 2014, we have stood in solidarity with the Afghan people to increase exports of fresh fruits from $250 million to over $1 billion by yearend. We are partnering with DMAC and UNMAS, to remove all landmines in Afghanistan, the most heavily mined country in the world, with an estimated 10 million landmines. Afghanistan is 80% dependent upon agriculture, and the lands was once known as the ‘Garden of Central Asia’. As we remove the landmines which hold the land hostage, we create fertie grounds for peace.
In a few days, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will return to Huambo, Angola to walk the minefields where his mother, Princess Diana took bold footsteps to raise global landmine awareness. Roots of Peace worked on these same lands for two years, and established a soccer field on a former minefield at this same site. Today, children with crutches proudly play soccer with their one ‘good leg’—feeling lucky that they did not lose both limbs.
As the month of September draws to a close, our Roots of Peace CHAMP team funded by USAID will bring Afghan traders to meet with Indian buyers as they negotiate trade deals exporting their fresh fruit. Despite the challenges in the Peace Talks and Peace Treaties, our efforts to plant the Roots of Peace in Afghanistan is on target, as National agricultural exports are expected to exeed $1 billion by yearend.
This year marks the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi (October 2, 1869), and I am most honored to receive the Gandhi Global Family Seva Award at the National Gandhi Museum in New Delhi. I humbly accept this prestigious award as a California mother and CEO deeply inspired by the words of Gandhi which represents my journey for over two decades, “The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.”
Thank you to all who have planted the Roots of Peace on Earth…