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Growing in Paradise

Growing in Paradise

It was about 20 years ago that I had the privilege to work and live with an organization in a remote corner of the earth, in Papua New Guinea. This is a country in the South Pacific and is as close to Paradise as it can possibly get. Papua New Guinea even has the Bird of Paradise on the country flag!

Here in paradise, we didn’t grow anything of our own. On a regular basis, the local villagers held a small food-market at our station. This way, we always had access to fresh fruits and vegetables and we were helping the local community in a way that didn’t interfere with their cultural habits.

But then, out of nothing, we were hit by a significant increase in costs. The always nice fresh fruits and vegetables were suddenly raised in price. It was perceived that the villagers where taking advantage of us. As a member of the board, I decided to cross the river and talk to the locals in person. Here, it was brought to my attention that the costs of “plant-medicine” had gone up.

I was shocked. The idea of fresh fruits and vegetables at the local market came crashing down. It turned out to be impossible for the villagers to grow any food without the “medicine”. The plants where hit by numerous pests and the only way to protect them was by using large amounts of pesticides.

Here in the middle of Paradise, our imagination of eating the best nature can offer was even worse than the vegetables we bought at the supermarket in any Western country.

Back in the greenhouses in The Netherlands we were always trying to create a climate that we had here in the South Pacific. The produce coming from greenhouses doesn’t have any residue of pesticides on them, as greenhouses are operated in a completely balanced bio-sphere. Pest entering the greenhouses are taken care of by continuous monitoring and by introducing natural enemies of these pests. With strict hygiene protocols we minimize every risk, ensuring a safe and stable production without the use of pesticides.

I had learned a valuable lesson by this experience in Papua New Guinea. Access to healthy fresh fruits and vegetables is not to be taken for granted. Even under the best possible growing circumstances, growing remains a challenge.