VIETNAM: FOOTSTEPS FOR PEACE Day 3
Our Roots of Peace delegation traveled smoothly in our air-conditioned van from Dong Ha to Khe Sanh via 'Route 9' which served as the northernmost transverse road in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Over 50 years ago, the badly deteriorated 'Route 9' ran from the coastal region, through the Central Highlands, then crossed the border into Laos--serving as a strategic supply route along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. In January 1968, when I was 10 years old, our family's black and white television would feature News Anchor Walter Cronkite reporting on The Battle of Khe Sanh, conducted in the northwestern province of Quang Tri. My heart would cringe, as I watched the nightly body count and reports of the 100,000 tons of bombs dropped by aircraft and over 158,000 artillery rounds fired during the height of this siege. I vowed to grow up, and make a difference to alleviate such suffering. During the 1970's, I pursued an education at U.C. Berkeley while the Peace Movement engulfed the campus during my teenage years.
Now, I was standing on the edge of a former battlefield in Khe Sanh, greeted by hundreds of Roots of Peace farmers proudly cultivating fresh black pepper and coffee beans. The lush green orchards were producing bountiful crops, and Vietnamese farmers in this ethnic community were inviting us into their humble homes to drink tea as a token of their sincere appreciation.
The vision for Roots of Peace began over 20 years ago--turning MINES TO VINES--replacing minefields with bountiful vineyards and orchards worldwide. Today, over 3000 Vietnamese farmers have been trained by Dr. Binh, our agricultural specialist, to grow high-value crops on former battlefields. And, the 'economics of peace' are providing a return on the investment, as Vietnamese pepper is shipped across the Pacific Ocean and sold to Morton & Bassett Spice Company in the United States.
Roots of Peace is proud to be in the 'business of peace' in Vietnam. Yet, over 80% of the land remains contaminated by landmines/UXO/cluster munition. The fertile land is held hostage by explosive remnants of war, and our delegation is on a quest to raise $20 million to eradicate ALL landmines by Earth Day 2020.
As I walk through former bomb craters now producing the world's best black pepper, I realize the vital importance of giving global citizens a 'taste of peace.'