Roots of Peace, a Humanitarian Non-Profit Organization Announces the First “Mines to Vines” Program in Ukraine
A Historic Initiative to Eradicate Landmines/UXO and restore Ukrainian Grape growing region.
Monday, December 5 – Napa Valley, California– Napa Valley was the center of a historic launch of the first demining program that seeks to eradicate landmines and UXO in the Mykolaiv region of Ukraine, an area which is experiencing a significant increase in lethal landmines and explosives as a consequence of the Russian invasion.
The announcement was made by Roots of Peace Founder and CEO, Heidi Kuhn, and Grgich Hills Estate President and Co-Proprietor Violet Grgich during the first “Festival of the Bells” at Grgich Hills Estate on December 2nd. The event celebrated the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Ottawa treaty on the prohibition of the use of landmines. Both Violet Grgich and Heidi Kuhn are mothers, and took the leap of this momentous partnership on behalf of children and farmers in Ukraine.
“I’ve walked the minefields of the world, including those of Afghanistan, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Cambodia, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. Now we are scaling up to the minefields of Ukraine– which was once the breadbasket of Europe. Since February 24, 2022, over 30% of Ukraine’s agricultural lands have been mined. We must put a stop to this.”Said Heidi Kuhn.
Violet Grgich spoke after the announcement:
“In May 2000, my father, Miljenko ‘Mike’ Grgich walked the minefields of his beloved homeland in Croatia with Heidi Kuhn and her daughter Kyleigh, age 13, to see the devastation of an estimated 1.2 million landmines. Together, they set out on a quest to transform minefields into bountiful vineyards. Today, Croatia is one of the top tourist destinations in the world, due in part to their MINES TO VINES initiative. Today, we expand our vision for peace to the fields of Ukraine.”
Dmytro Kushnerek, the San Francisco Consul General of Ukraine, participated in the announcement and welcomed the initiative born in the heart of Napa and supported by the Rotary E-Club of Ukraine.
“This demining project is essential for Ukraine because landmines are one of the big problems we face in the middle of the war,” said Dmytro Kushnerek. “Those explosives are affecting our communities, especially children and civilians not involved in the fighting. Huge land parcels have seen substantial growth of explosive devices planted by Russian occupation in fields, villages, and towns.”
“As Ukrainians and Rotarians, making Ukraine safe again and rebuilding destroyed and (military) polluted areas our main focuses now,” said Tatiana Godak, President, Rotary E-Club of Ukraine. “The Roots of Peace Mines to Vines initiative will substantially contribute to both.”
As part of the treaty anniversary, the former United States Ambassador to Cambodia and The World Food Prize President Emeritus Kenneth Quinn led a series of panels with experts and diplomats about global challenges with landmines, the demining processes, and agricultural development opportunities in countries such as Azerbaijan, Croatia, Israel, Lebanon, Colombia, Laos, and Ukraine.
“In the past 25 years, the impact of Roots of Peace turning MINES TO VINES has already been felt in Afghanistan, Vietnam, Croatia, the Holy Land, and now Ukraine. And I hope that during this season, whatever your religious background might be, people from around the world can join together in a cause that can unite us across significant differences, alleviating human suffering and preventing harm and death to innocent people, particularly children. We can build Peace through Agriculture.”Said Ambassador Quinn, a diplomat with considerable experience in confronting landmines during his career, who now serves as Senior Advisor to Roots of Peace.
Topics such as the perils of landmines were discussed by Azerbaijan Ambassador to the US Khazar Ibrahim, the Consul General of Ukraine Dmytro Kushnerek, Ramil Azizov- ANAMA – National Demining Organization from Azerbaijan, and Chehab Elawar, board member, Rotary Peace Action Group and many members of the San Francisco Consular Corps, including Japan, Israel, Hungary, the Philippines, Ireland, and the EU Special Envoy for Digital in the US.
Daniel Yuval, an Israeli landmine victim who lost his leg in Israel’s Golan Heights as an 11-year-old boy in 2011, shared his personal story at the event broadcast online worldwide. Shortly after his tragic accident, he called Heidi Kuhn to his bedside to bring forth a landmine free world. Together, they worked with the Knesset to bring forth the first ever humanitarian mine action law. Through generous funding by Napa Valley vintners, they raised the funds to remove landmines in the fields of Bethlehem – four miles from the birthplace of Jesus Christ, where 8 children had been killed by landmines that had lurked in the area’s soil since 1948.
“I lost a leg as a child. I stepped on a landmine while I was happily running in the snow with my family,” Yuval said. “Shortly after the accident, I began working with Heidi Kuhn. We helped to demine the fields of Bethlehem. Twelve years later, I’m now a man, and I am returning to the United States to continue to advocate with Heidi and Roots of Peace for a landmine free world. Children across the world – in Ukraine and Afghanistan and in many wartorn territories across the world – are blowing up as we speak.”
Sera Koulabdara–Executive Director, Legacies of War—USCBL (Laos), Adriana Aristizabal, former war-correspondent from Colombia and iVoice Communications founder and CEO, Elizabeth Whitlow—Executive Director, Regenerative Organic Alliance (Sonoma) and Ivo Jeramaz—winemaker and VP Production & Viticulture, Grgich Hills Estate, were invited to the forum as experts to discuss the challenges of “Cultivating Peace Through Agriculture and Education”.
These panel discussions took place at the forum on Dec 2, 2022 as part of the inaugural celebration of “The Festival of the Bells”, to raise global awareness regarding the 60 million landmines that remain in the soil of 60 countries worldwide. Roots of Peace has successfully facilitated the removal of over 100,000 landmines/UXO and planted over seven (7) million fruit trees and vines, providing food security in war-torn lands.
Millions of farmers and families have benefited from the dream of turning MINES TO VINES and cultivating sustainable peace through agriculture in Afghanistan, Croatia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Guatemala, Azerbaijan, and the Holy Land.
In this holiday season of peace, Roots of Peace is asking for generous donations from global citizens so that the fight may continue. Donation information can be found at Roots of Peace’s website: www.rootsofpeace.org.
ABOUT ROOTS OF PEACE
For the past 25 years, Roots of Peace has worked in war-torn countries around the world to remove the remnants of war, landmines and unexploded ordinances, and restore the land in order to rebuild peaceful communities for generations to come.
More than 500 million smallholder farming households across the world live on less than $2 a day. Building a sustainable, regenerative source of income that gives families livelihoods and stability is one of the most pressing issues to be addressed in post-conflict countries. With the help of Roots of Peace, farmers are addressing the key challenges to increased income by applying modern technology and farming techniques that result in increased yields and sustainability.
The Roots of Peace “Mines to Vines” approach has impacted over one million farmers and families. By removing landmines and the remnants of war, Roots of Peace frees land held hostage by unrest. In Afghanistan, it has facilitated the export of fresh fruits, nuts and spices to markets around the world, contributing to the increase in Afghan agricultural exports from $250 million in 2014 to over $1.4 billion in 2020. Roots of Peace’s award-winning methodology is rooted in building a business model for peace: providing market-driven solutions tailored to rural communities in war-torn lands and serving as a catalyst for industry-wide development across the world. For more info click here.
ABOUT GRGICH HILLS ESTATE WINERY
Family-owned-and-operated since 1977, Grgich Hills Estate is passionately devoted to the art of winemaking and organic/regenerative farming. Today, we pursue the same vision of winemaking, cultivation, and hospitality passed down for generations. Visit our Rutherford estate for a seated tasting of our award-winning wines, renowned for their elegance, balance, and food-friendliness. For more information, please visit www.grgich.com.
ABOUT ROTARY E-CLUB Of UKRAINE
We are the first web based Ukrainian Rotary Club with operations supported by web technologies and electronic communications. Our Club is just like any traditional Rotary club. The only difference is that members meet online to coordinate service projects and enjoy fellowship with likeminded Rotarians. The mission of Rotary e-Club Ukraine is to connect, inform, inspire and involve members in “Service Above Self” from around the world. More information can be found at http://rotaryeclubukraine.org/.