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War-torn region restoration: Lecture features Borlaug winner

Distinguished+Professor+Dr.+Don+Beitz+praises+Heidi+K%C3%BChns+achievements+with+Roots+of+Peace+for+the+Norman+Borlaug+lecture+series+in+the+Great+Hall+on+Oct.+23%2C+2023.
Joseph Dicklin
Distinguished Professor Dr. Don Beitz praises Heidi Kühn’s achievements with Roots of Peace for the Norman Borlaug lecture series in the Great Hall on Oct. 23, 2023.

Heidi Kühn is the Founder and CEO of Roots of Peace, a farmer-focused development model restoring farmland, food security, livelihoods and resilience in war-torn areas. Since 1997, Kühn has shown millions of people living in war-torn regions worldwide how to move forward through agriculture. 

“I founded the humanitarian non-profit organization with the cliche motto of turning mines to vines,” Kühn said. “I fought and won a hard battle against cancer, which inspired me to remove an insidious cancer of the earth by replacing remnants of war with bountiful farmland.”

Kühn has been named the 2023 World Food Prize Laureate and will receive a $250,000 prize for her 25 years of work. 

“Her quest to eradicate landmines from the face of the earth can inspire students and future generations to strive to make a difference,” President Wendy Wintersteen said. “Today we gather and acknowledge her well-deserved recognition.” 

The Norman Borlaug Lecture, “Removing Landmines, Supporting Farmers: Cultivating Peace Through Agriculture” was held Monday at the Memorial Union in the Great Hall. Eighteen undergraduate and graduate students had posters on display relating back to Kühn’s lecture representing their own work and research in the area of world issues. 

Roots of Peace CEO and 2023 World Food Prize Laureate Heidi Kühn talks at the Norman Borlaug lecture series in the Memorial Union Great Hall on Oct. 23, 2023. (Joseph Dicklin)

“I am honored to be a part of the Norman Borlaug lecture series… Forming in 2002 and named after the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the World Food Prize, Dr. Norman Borlaug was born in Cresco, Iowa.” Kühn said. “Borlaug contributed to world peace through the research of wheat and production that saved millions.”

According to Iowa State College of Agriculture and Life Science, this annual lecture was named after the agronomist who sparked the green revolution that led to the increase in the growth of high-yielding grains. Borlaug founded the World Food Prize in 1986 to recognize the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

“The lecture truly makes you think about how much your impact can make on the world,” Madelyn Rupert, a sophomore in elementary education said. “Kühn can inspire so many people who aren’t even involved or interested in the agricultural field to make this world a better place.”

The annual lecture coincides with the World Food Prize International Symposium which features Kühn and her story on the World Food Prize. 

“World Food Prize was founded in 1986 to recognize the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world,” Kühn said. “One thing I hope students take from this is a small step in the right direction can change a whole lot of lives.” 

Terry Branstad, World Food Prize Foundation president, former governor of Iowa and former U.S. Ambassador to China congratulated Kühn on her achievement, complimenting her nonprofit work. 

“Heidi Khün embodies the commitment of Dr. Norman Borlaug, who founded the World Food Prize, to cultivate peace through agriculture,” Branstad stated in a news release.  “Roots of Peace provides a model of how to overcome threats and challenges that can impede regions for years after conflict.”

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