Roots of Peace, based in California, was founded in 1997 by Heidi Kuhn with the goal of freeing the world from landmines. The organization takes a unique approach to mine clearance, turning minefields into farmland. Currently, Roots of Peace is working on two projects in southeastern Angola. A 26-year civil war resulted in landmines and unexploded ordnance being scattered throughout the country and also created an unstable economy. Roots of Peace is working with Conservation International to clear access corridors for elephants and with World Vision to help Angola increase agricultural production.
Restoring Nature’s Balance
Landmines and unexploded ordnance have not only affected the people of Angola, but also disrupted the lives of elephants in northern Botswana, blocking access to historical foraging areas in Angola and Zambia. Landmines form a barrier separating the Chobe region of Botswana from the upper Cuando and Zambezi Rivers. The elephant range within the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KaZa TFCA) has been reduced to a fraction of its size by the landmine barrier. Surpassing 130,000, the elephant herd is increasing by approximately 5 percent each year, an unsustainable growth rate given the current confinement. The growing herd is disturbing local communities and destroying the surrounding environment by overgrazing the area.
Working with Conservation International, Roots of Peace plans to implement a program to open elephant access corridors, conserve wildlife and stimulate economic development. Roots of Peace will head a demining operation to remove landmines from historic elephant foraging areas, coordinating with the government of Angola, the provincial government of Cuando Cubango, and the U.N. Development Programme—Angola. Conservation International will then work on ecotourism development based on wildlife conservation within the Luiana Reserve. It is expected that the return of the elephants to these historic habitats will stimulate the economy through an increase in tourism in the areas.
People are not the only ones affected by landmines; when deminers open access corridors, these elephants will no longer have to forage far and wide for food.
The landmine situation in Angola has had a severe impact on the socioeconomic state of the country. Landmines and UXO have blocked roads, bridges and access to farmland, resulting in an inability to meet domestic food requirements. Blocked access has also made it hard to provide medical attention and education on HIV/AIDS and mines, specifically in the war-torn provinces of Huambo, Bie and Benguela.
Roots of Peace and World Vision seek to combine demining and redevelopment efforts, stimulating the economy and agricultural development. The project consists of three parts:
- Clearing and rebuilding roads, bridges and other priority areas: Roots of Peace will conduct a mine survey including mapping and education efforts. The organization will also demine and reconstruct roads and bridges, opening access to regions in need of assistance.
- Strengthening agri-business development and improving food security: World Vision will focus on its already established Pro-Rural1 model program, as well as food security through subsistence farming.
- Producing and exporting high-value crops: Roots of Peace and World Vision will work together on this aspect of the project, executing a plan to grow and market high-value crops.
Bringing Back Security
Each project will raise US$10 million over the next three years. The long-term impact of the projects will be great, helping the people of Angola return to a self-sufficient lifestyle and preserving the environment. Working collaboratively with other organizations, the projects headed by Roots of Peace are expected to increase the safety, security and stability of these regions.
Megan Wertz was an Editorial Assistant with the Journal of Mine Action from August 2005 until May 2006, when she graduated from James Madison University with a Bachelor of Science in technical and scientific communication. Wertz attends The George Washington University where she is obtaining a Master of Arts in public policy. She hopes to pursue a career in environmental policy.
- Through the Pro-Rural model program, World Vision and Roots of Peace are striving for farmers’ food prosperity instead of simply farmers’ food security by carefully marketing farmers’ produce and generating more high-value crops. Another goal the two organizations hope to achieve through the Pro-Rural program is HIV/AIDS awareness and increased involvement of women and young people.
Journal of Mine Action
Mine Action Information Center
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