Meet Our Founder, Heidi Kuhn
Heidi Kühn is the Founder and CEO of Roots of Peace, launching the organization in 1997 with a vision of turning Mines to Vines. Since then, Roots of Peace has facilitated the removal of over one hundred thousand landmines and unexploded ordnances and provided food security to local communities in Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, Croatia, Guatemala, Iraq, Israel, Palestine and Vietnam.
In 2021, Heidi's visionary leadership was acknowledged with her inclusion in the inaugural Forbes 50 Over 50 “Women Who Are Leading the Way in Impact” List. In 2002, Kuhn received the University of California at Berkeley Alumni of the Year Award for Excellence in Achievement. In 2005 she was awarded the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations Peace & Security Award. In 2006 she received the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. In 2007, she was given the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for Outstanding Public Service– the foremost award for American changemakers.
Heidi also won the 2019 Mahatma Gandhi Seva Medal. She is the proud recipient of the International Women’s Forum (IWF) Making a Difference Award and was honored as one of IWF’s “Ideas Remaking the World” honorees in 2020. In November 2022, Heidi was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the American University of Afghanistan at a dinner hosted by former First Ladies Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton.
Heidi is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Political Economics, and a former CNN reporter and producer. She lives in San Rafael, California, with her husband, Gary, with whom she has four children—Brooks, Tucker, Kyleigh, and Christian. She also has six grandchildren.
Heidi Kuhn is Co-Founder and CEO of Roots of Peace, a humanitarian-nonprofit organization founded in September 1997 with a vision to transform MINES TO VINES--replacing the scourge of landmines with sustainable agricultural farmland. Her pioneering work empowers families living in war-torn regions with hope leading to the economics of peace through export and trade
The California spirit is deeply rooted in Heidi, who was raised with the values of respecting the earth and its people, ideals established by her family who were early pioneers in the 1800’s. A fifth-generation California, she attended the University of California Berkeley majoring in Political Economics, where those core beliefs were strengthened during the peace movement of the 1970’s, setting forth a lifelong commitment to pioneering the footsteps of peace.
During the early 1990’s, Heidi owned her own television news organization, NewsLink International, reporting for CNN and other news organizations in Alaska on the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the melting of the “ice curtain” between the United States and the Soviet Union. Raising her children in Juneau, Alaska, she earned a reputation for bridging borders for peace—reporting for ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Nippon Television and other major media organizations.
After overcoming a cancer diagnosis, Heidi further embraced the core values she was raised with when she saw an opportunity to eradicate another form of cancer – that of landmines, which she viewed as a cancer to the Earth. From the basement of her home, she garnered the support of famed Napa Valley vintners including Robert Mondavi, Mike Grgich and Diane Disney Miller to support her vision of turning “Mines to Vines” – replacing the remnants of war with bountiful vineyards and orchards of peace around the world.
Over the past 23 years, Heidi has grown Roots of Peace across the world with the support of the United States Government, the United Nations, World Bank, international governments, Rotary Clubs and the private sector. She has been recognized by numerous world leaders including UN Secrteary-General Kofi Annan, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, His Holiness Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, the Grand Mufti of the Dome of Jerusalem and many heads of state and government.
Her supporters include the United States Government, the United Nations, World Bank and other international governments and organizations. She has been recognized by numerous world leaders including U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis and many heads of state and government.
To date, Roots of Peace has impacted over 1 million farmers and families, spanning eight countries – Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, Croatia, Iraq, Israel, Palestine and Vietnam. Heidi’s work has led the successful USAID program to increase the agricultural exports in Afghanistan from $250 million in 2014 to over $1.4 billion in 2020. Roots of Peace has facilitated the removal of over 100,000 landmines and unexploded bombs, restoring the land for agricultural bounty.
Heidi and Roots of Peace have been the recipient of numerous awards including the 2006 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award/National Jefferson Award for Public Service, the Rotary International “Service Above Self” Award. In 2018, she received the inaugural Earth Ethics Award from Marcus Nobel, nephew of Alfred Nobel presented to her at the United Nations in New York. And, in 2019, Heidi received the Gandhi Global Family Award in New Delhi, the first American to receive this prestigious award on the occasion of the 150th Birthday of Mahatma Gandhi.
Her book Breaking Ground was published in April 2020. It is both a memoir and a call to action, a gripping account of Heidi’s quest to eradicate landmines from the face of the earth and firmly plant the roots of peace.
Invite Heidi Kühn to Speak
Our CEO, Heidi Kühn, has a gift for moving, inspirational, grounded speaking. She has called audiences around the world to join her in taking steps forward for peace, from the floor of the General Assembly, to the Knesset, dozens of clubs around the world. Invite her to speak at your event:
Roots of Peace Tree of Life, by Heidi Kuhn
A tree was planted on a former minefield;
The trunk grew strong, as there was hope for a yield.
Branches became heavy with bouquets of fruit ;
And, thousands of farmers began to follow suit.
Millions of trees are now planted on former war-torn land;
Children are educated, as their family livelihoods expand.
Farmers now sit beneath the shade of the tree;
Roots of Peace planted a future for all to taste and see.