Aruba is a small island in the Caribbean, close to the coast of Venezuela. With a temperature around 28 Celsius, a very low rainfall and a local food coverage of only 0.04%, the island is at risk of famine. "Most of the food is import and and international prices are going up," says Ingela Lacle. Originated from Aruba, she's working hard to educate people on the island for the danger of famine. Following COVID, people take her more seriously.
Covid has been a gamechanger for Ingela Lacle, she can now recall. People have had a little taste of what could happen if they do not act on the food supply of Aruba. Before that, she often wasn't taken seriously by the people living on the island. Laughed at. Sometimes she even wanted to give up and leave the island to live somewhere she would be taken serious.
"I've been voicing my concerns for over 5 years," Ingela shares. "I've been growing my own fruits and vegetables for the last 16 years and created a broad knowledge on small scale cultivation." She did inform the island that food will become unaffordable on this small island if no actions will be taken. "Remember that only 0.04% is locally grown which is devastating for a small island that is almost overpopulated, and agricultural spaces are becoming less."
In 2019, during the sustainable development symposium in Aruba, Ingela Lacle had her presentation about how vulnerable Aruba is for famine and the importance for people to start growing their own food in small spaces, either at home or community gardens.
After her presentation, Ingela had a meeting with the minister of education, science and sustainable development, Minister Armando Rudolfo Lampe ( Rudy Lampe) to start small greenhouses at schools.
The first school that started was colegio San Antonio. Giving them education about soil, development, diseases and taking care of plants in Aruba. 'The weather in Aruba is drought and almost desert. The students got different seeds to plant and when they germinated and were strong enough, the students planted them in raised beds," she explains.
When Covid hit Aruba, the lockdown happened, all schools were closed and many seedlings and transplanted plants died. The teacher Corinna Franken Boekhoudt of colegio San Antonio kept going. "She went against all odds to try to save most plants as possible. When schools opened and students went back to school, slowly but surely it all started again. Big success."
Ingela Lacle noticed that adding more colors to the green house, lifts the interest more. "Besides red tomatoes, I added different sizes and colors tomatoes. The same with sweet pepper, radish, cucumbers, corns, radish, beets, lettuce, okras, kale, broccoli etc."
Indirect, she's teaching students that the variety of fresh produce is bigger than what they are used to see in local supermarkets and that they should not be afraid of trying what is not common in local supermarkets. "The younger they start growing their own food, the sooner we fight famine. They can experience that we can grow various fruits and vegetables on the island, Notable many known winter crops are adapting to our desert climate."
Ingela believes that children that can grow their own food, develop a sense of survival in food scarcity. "Even if it is in small spaces. A pot, in a sock. Children should have a basic survival skill before entering the responsibility of adulthood." And with result: More schools are joining Ingela to educate, motivate and build school gardens.
Ingela is not done yet. Her list is long. "This is just the beginning," she says. Besides schools, she is building a fruit and vegetable garden at the local orphanage and teen mother center. "Teaching young mothers to be able to produce their own food. I believe that the most vulnerable in the society are those that need this the most."
One of her next projects is creating a food garden at the local library. "One part is for the school that is connected at the library and another part for the visitors of the library to sit, enjoy and learn more about plants."
Many things going on, but she is determined to make a difference. We will hear more from her. "The worst was not being taken seriously. That is over, now I can only go forward."
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