ABC7 News anchor Cheryl Jennings has been reporting on its work for several years, since it was a small operation run out of the basement of a family's home. Now, Roots of Peace is a major part of the transition in Afghanistan as military forces begin to withdraw and the focus turns to agriculture.
Clusters of grapes that look like they were grown in lush California Napa Valley vineyards are being grown in Afghanistan by farmers working with Roots of Peace. One of their latest videos shows founder Heidi Kuhn with an Afghan farmer who has doubled his income thanks to the agricultural expertise of Roots of Peace. "What Roots of Peace is creating is the economics of peace," Kuhn says.
Roots of Peace is gearing up to expand its program from a million farmers and families, to millions of farmers and families in all 34 Afghan provinces thanks to a partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ministry of Agriculture in Afghanistan. It's part of the new U.S. strategy as troops withdraw. "The whole reason that USAID has such a robust program in Afghanistan is to help the Afghans stand on their own feet and resist the sorts of influences that led that country down such a bad path."
Asked if he'll be teaching the Afghan government how to run same types of program that Roots of Peace has been doing for several years now, Executive Director Gary Kuhn says, "Pretty much." His team is implementing the new multi-million dollar contract with USAID and the Afghan government. "They're really trying to empower government here to do the work that organizations like Roots of Peace and U.S. Military have been doing," he says.
Roots of Peace raises money to remove landmines from 30 years of war and then teaches farmers new science and technology. "The effort that is now under way with Roots of Peace is specifically designed to help ordinary Afghan farmers to increase the income they get from agriculture," USAID's Alex Their says.
"What we're doing is providing export markets to India, Pakistan, Delhi and Dubai so the Afghan farmers are literally able to reap a harvest of hope," Heidi says.
UC Davis is also working with Roots of Peace. Thier predicts there will be a day when Afghanistan will be healthy enough to export products to America. In the meantime, Roots of Peace will be working with a five-year government contract to help lift Afghanistan out of poverty and into prosperity.