World Food Prize winner accepts award during ceremony in Des Moines

DES MOINES — The winner of this year’s World Food Prize is launching a program to reestablish vineyards and farmland in parts of Ukraine that were damaged in the war with Russia.

Heidi Kühn is the founder of Roots of Peace. The U.S.-based nonprofit works in war-torn nations to clear landmines and unexploded bombs, and to restore land to agriculture. Kühn says the risk of injury from unexploded ordinances can harm local economies and restrict food production for decades.

Kühn says, “As land mines are in there, it’s holding the land hostage from business opportunity.” The impacted area of Ukraine is estimated to cover 22 million acres, which is about the same amount of land devoted to corn and soybeans in Iowa. The area is considered critical to the global wheat supply. In Vietnam, the group is still clearing mines placed in the demilitarized zone 50 plus years ago.

Kühn says in restored areas, farmers have planted more than one-million black pepper trees. “This is fertile ground that feeds us,” she says, “so I think this is not a political call to action, this is a moral call to action.”

Kühn received the award at a ceremony in the Iowa State Capitol last night. The World Food Prize is awarded each year in honor of Iowa native and Nobel Prize winner Norman Borlaug and his work reducing world hunger.