Born in the Netherlands and brought up in Germany, it wasn’t until I was 21 that I met my first coconut. It was on a beach in Thailand where I ended up during a one-year sojourn away from home, trying to grow up. With nothing better to do, I picked up a husky fruit lying in the sand, and spent the next few hours trying to open it with my bare hands. A few scratches and broken fingernails later, I managed to get to the nut’s core.
It was dry inside, no water. It had probably been steaming in the sun for a long time. That coconut was among my early disappointments, but it taught me to look beyond an enticing shell.
Years later, working as a conservation scientist studying orangutans in Indonesia, one thing started to bug me. I had been doing a lot of work on another tropical crop, the infamous oil palm, whose plantations are the scourge of tropical wildlife. If social media is anything to go by, people hate oil palm, but they love products from the coconut palm. MORE
Header image: a smallholder coconut plantation in Gorontalo, Indonesia. Credit: Matthew Struebig, Author provided.