PILDAT launches Heidi Kühn’s book ‘Breaking Ground’

By: Our Correspondent

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) launched the book ‘Breaking Ground’ authored by Heidi Kühn, CEO and Founder, Roots of Peace on September 10, 2020.

Ambassador Mohammed Sadiq, Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, was the Keynote Speaker at the virtual book launch, while Ms. Heidi Kühn shared her plans and insights as the author of the book. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President, PILDAT, Shahid Khan, Roots of Peace Senior Advisor and Honorary Consul General of Pakistan, and Gary Kühn, President, Roots of Peace, also spoke at the book launch. The virtual book launch was moderated by Emmy Award-winning Journalist, Ms. Cheryl Jennings.

In his opening remarks, PILDAT President Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob welcomed Ms. Heidi Kühn and Roots of Peace for partnering with PILDAT in launching the amazing book Breaking Ground. Mehboob said that the book tells a fascinating story of the creation, struggle and success of the organization founded by Kühn which is aptly named ‘Roots of Peace.’ The book narrates her challenges spread over three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa – to remove landmines and rehabilitate the demined land. The positive results allowed local farmers to plant vines, fruit trees and cash crops, and, connected local farmers to international markets. A few months after the 9/11 tragedy, Ms. Kühn identified the issue of landmines in Afghanistan – a country 80% dependent on agriculture. With funding from Diane Disney Miller, daughter of Walt Disney, she partnered with UNDP to remove landmines in the Shomali Plains north of Kabul.  Partnering with the University of California, Davis, she started her work to grow fresh grapes and also produce raisins on former minefields in Afghanistan with funding from USAID. ‘Roots of Peace’ restored the agricultural land in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan by planting various fruits like grapes, pomegranate, nuts, figs, apricots, and apples.

The keynote speaker H.E. Ambassador Mohammed Sadiq, Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said that the timing of this book launch is very interesting as less than 36 hours from now, the inaugural session of Intra-Afghan negotiations would begin in Doha, Qatar.

We are hopeful that at this inaugural session of Intra-Afghan negotiations, people of Afghanistan and their stakeholders will be able to decide on an agenda for future talks,” stated Ambassador Sadiq.

Ambassador Sadiq said that while serving as Pakistan’s Ambassador in Afghanistan, he has personally seen the improvements facilitated by Roots of Peace. Farmers have been able to increase income and Afghan agriculture exports have dramatically increased It is not a small achievement for a country like Afghanistan where key job creation comes from agriculture. Ambassador Sadiq added Pakistan’s former tribal areas share the same situation with Afghanistan. He said that they hope Ms. Kühn will be able to implement similar agriculture initiatives on this side of the Afghan border, adding that such contributions in Pakistan will not only help farmers in the former FATA but also equip Afghan refugees with necessary job skills that will help them get a job when they wish to return honourably to Afghanistan.

Ms. Heidi Kühn, founder of Roots of Peace and author of Breaking Ground shared that her book describes her difficult 23-year journey helping war-torn countries remove landmines and restore land for agriculture. She emphasized that through her belief in ‘Peace through Agriculture’, she would like to work with Pakistan to impact farmers and families through her MINES TO VINES initiative.She said that sharing her ‘call to action’ to plant the Roots of Peace in Pakistan on the eve of the 19th anniversary of 9/11 is a step forward to promote people-to-people contact and support farmers and families in Pakistan.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Shahid Ahmed Khan said Roots of Peace and its founder Ms. Heidi Kühn, have helped bring real change to Afghanistan. Breaking Ground shares the inspiring journey she began and he is very happy to facilitate Ms. Heidi Kühn and Roots of Peace to work in Pakistan.

Mr. Gary Kühn, President, Roots of Peace, said that Roots of Peace has been able to create jobs where job creation was most difficult. With major investments from USAID, World Bank and others, Roots of Peace was able to make a real difference in the lives of people and for business and trade of Afghanistan. Afghanistan has seen phenomenal success through this model which can be applied to the former FATA in Pakistan. There is demand for the same initiatives in Pakistan by Pakistan’s farmers.

Earlier, Welcoming the panellists and participants, Emmy Award-Winning Journalist, Ms. Cheryl Jennings said that Breaking Ground traces an inspiring journey of initiatives by Ms. Heidi Kühn. Ms. Jennings proudly stated that she is at the book launch as a moderator because she has followed the work of Roots of Peace for television news, for nearly 20 years, when she was a news anchor for the ABC TV station in San Francisco. She travelled with Roots of Peace to war-torn countries to document their work removing landmines and restoring the land for agriculture and development.