Peter S. Cooper is the editor of the GrowerNEWS publication in New Zealand. In this recent article, he expresses his opinion on the current refugee crisis. According to Cooper, the educated refugees provide an opportunity for horticulture.

By Peter S. Cooper, for

Having previously lived and worked within the Horticulture Industry in the Middle East, I have seen the high levels of both education and experience that many from the likes of Syria and Iraq, as well as Palestine and Jordan, possess. Some have studied to post-graduate level, abroad, and many have a mastery of the English language to a level that it would be relatively easy for them to work in local companies. In addition, these tech-savvy specialists are used to dealing, internationally, in both sourcing supplies and in exports, and may have connections that could prove valuable to NZ companies.

I believe it should be possible for local market gardeners and orchardists to gain some highly-trained staff who should be able to learn our ways, quickly, as well as adapting their own techniques to NZ climate and soil conditions, especially in the area of water usage, irrigation and fertilisation.

In scanning Social Media in recent days, it appears that a number of individuals I have contacted in Europe have spoken positively about those refugees who have already settled, one German person commenting about her Syrian friends’ English language skills being better than what’s available within the local population. She said that the refugees in her city have adapted well to their new lives and are making a positive contribution to the community.

My suggestion would be for NZ’s industry to investigate this opportunity further and discuss a focus on finding refugees with the skills this country needs, especially in Horticulture. As these people are relatively young, compared to our current bunch of growers, are highly skilled and educated and resourceful, it may help the local industry find the next generation, able to take things forward.

The choice is yours…

Peter S. Cooper – Editor, GrowerNEWS