On the Fourth of July, I celebrated America’s Freedom at China Camp in Marin County, where my great-great grandfather, Captain John A. McNear, purchased the land in 1868. During the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, he welcomed the Chinese community who were being discriminated after the Gold Rush and building of the transcontinental railroad. Over 500 Chinese moved to his land, and established a thriving dried fishing business exporting 3 million pounds of dried shrimp to China annually–contributing greatly to the California economy.
Over 150 years later, this American spirit of respect for the land and social justice is part of our family DNA.
This is why I started Roots of Peace over two decades ago with a pioneer spirit to bring forth the American dream, and share it across borders with those less fortunate. As President John F. Kennedy stated, “To whom much has been given, much is expected.”
On July 5, 2018, I departed Marin County for Kabul, Afghanistan on a quest to bring forth the true ‘American spirit’ instilled by my ancestors to those seeking sustainable peace through agriculture. Freedom begins with the dignity to walk the Earth without the fear of landmines, and I was proud to partner with Patrick Fruchet, Director, United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), to eradicate the remnants of war which prevent a farmer from cultivating his field. There are over 10,000 landmines/UXO and cluster munition in Afghanistan, and we remain deeply committed towards turning MINES TO VINES–replacing the scourge of landmines with bountiful vineyards and orchards. In 2003, Diane Disney Miller, daughter of Walt Disney, generously donated the funds to Roots of Peace to remove deadly landmines in the Shomali Plains, located north of Kabul. In partnership with UNMAS, we safely removed these mines and established trellis grape vines which are now exported to Delhi and Dubai.
Ambassador John Bass greeted us at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, and applauded our efforts with USAID/CHAMP to provide export markets for Afghan traders. Roots of Peace has contributed over 2% to the GDP of Afghanistan, according to President Ashraf Ghani. And, General John Nicholson confirmed our contribution to the ‘economics of peace’ as he greeted us at Resolute Support Headquarters. Helicopters swirled above, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Kabul to discuss the importance of planting the roots of peace during this window of time.
On July 11th, our Roots of Peace USAID/CHAMP delegation flew 50 Afghan Traders from Kabul via Spice Air, as we met with 700 Indian Traders at the ITC Maurney Hotel in New Delhi. Historical trade deals were made over two days, as over $68 Million was negotiated in trade of fresh fruits, dried fruits and spices. The ‘Kabuli Wallas’ were back! This was the term describing the Afghan traders who brought ‘the best’ fresh fruits to India.
Now, through new air trade corridors, this was again possible through the efforts of our Roots of Peace staff!
On July 18th, I continued my quest for peace, as I flew from New Delhi, India to Hanoi, Vietnam.
Today, there are millions of cluster munition which prevent farmers from cultivating agricultural crops.
Roots of Peace is leading a campaign to raise $20 million by Earth Day 2020 to eradicate all explosive remnants of war from Quang Tri province, former DMZ. More bombs were dropped in this region than World War I and II combined. And, in the true spirit of America, we are seeking to heal the wounds of war by planting fresh black pepper on former battlefields.
I had the honor of meeting with Acting Ambassador Caryn McClellan, U.S. Embassy in Hanoi.
And, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs greeted us, and welcomed us to their home for a traditional family dinner.
VUFO (Vietnam Union of Friendship Organization) and PACCOM formed a partnership with Roots of Peace ‘Harvest of Hope’ campaign for Fall 2018. as we seek to turn ‘swords into plowshares’ by replacing shovels in the hands of farmers following the guns of war.
The Vietnam War ended on April 30. 1975, yet over 100,000 innocent Vietnamese have been maimed or killed due to explosive remnants of war left behind. It is our moral obligation to work together to eradicate these seeds of terror, and empower the local farmers to truly plant the Roots of Peace.
Morton and Bassett has formed a partnership with Roots of Peace, and will market all their spices featuring our LOGO–to raise both awareness and funding to turn our ‘ideas into reality’.
As I flew across the Pacific Ocean to complete my circle around the planet in 16 days, I was filled with optimism.
Somehow, I felt that Captain John A. McNear would be proud of his great-great granddaughter for emulating the true American pioneer spirit, and sharing it with deserving global citizens.
After all, it is about respect for the land and its’ people!
Together. may we plant the Roots of Peace on Earth…