Seed World

Heidi Kühn Announced as 2023 World Food Prize Winner

On May 11, the World Food Prize Foundation honored humanitarian and peace activist Heidi Kühn as the 2023 World Food Prize Laureate according to a release.

Kühn, 65, has spent over 25 years working to restore agriculture in former conflict zones. Founding Roots of Peace in 1997, a nonprofit, Kühn works to replace past areas of war with farmland. The nonprofit also aids in training farmers in modernizing their farming practices.

The announcement was made by U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad, World Food Prize Foundation president, at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. The event featured remarks by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and World Food Prize Foundation COO Mashal Husain.

Kühn’s work spreads across multiple countries including Afghanistan, Angola, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Croatia, Israel, Iraq, Palestinian areas and Vietnam. Roots of Peace has recently partnered with the Rotary Club of Ukraine to begin their work there. According to a UN estimate, around 30% of Ukraine is mined because of the current conflict.

Roots for Peace and Kühn have created fruit, nut, seed and spice production on former areas of war. In Afghanistan, the organization has generated exports of around $491 million since 2010 which has supported economic recovery.

“Heidi Khün embodies the commitment of Dr. Norman Borlaug, who founded the World Food Prize, to cultivate peace through agriculture,” said Ambassador Branstad. “I am honored to announce her as the 2023 Laureate for her work to provide a way forward for more than a million people living in war-torn regions around the world. Roots of Peace provides a model of how to overcome threats and challenges that can impede regions for years after conflict.” 

The beginnings of her work were in Croatia restoring vineyards. There she partnered with Croatian-American wine producer Mike Grgich of Grgich Hills Estate. Roots for Peace works with partners to clear mines after they make initial agricultural assessments to find land that will work for farmers.

There are about 60 million people across 70 countries and territories that are at risk of landmines according to the UN. These numbers include rural communities where farming is even more vital.

“It is with immense gratitude and a sense of responsibility that I humbly accept the World Food Prize this year on behalf of Roots of Peace and the farming families of war-torn countries across the world,” said Kühn.

“This prestigious award underscores the importance of our mission to revitalize agriculture in post-conflict areas, as a means of healing both the land and its people,” Kühn said. “As we rejoice in this recognition, we must not forget the millions of families affected by the tragedies of war, who seek hope, stability, and sustenance through the nurturing power of agriculture.”

“With conflicts proliferating in so many parts of the world, nations are increasingly finding it necessary to confront the daunting challenge of rebuilding food systems, livelihoods and communities after conflict,” said Gebisa Ejeta, 2009 World Food Prize Laureate and chair of the World Food Prize Selection Committee. “The Selection Committee recognized that Heidi Kühn’s work shows the world the vital role agriculture must have in the resilient recovery from conflict and restoration of peace.”

Kühn credits the late Princess Diana as her inspiration behind her work. Before founding Roots for Peace, Kühn was a journalist.

“Heidi Kühn’s passion for using agriculture to promote peace has helped many farmers and their families live safer, stabler lives,” said Paul Schickler, chair of the board of directors of the World Food Prize Foundation. “Her work demonstrates the many roles agriculture can and should play in building a sustainable, resilient world.”