Posted: October 20, 2011

Name: Dr. Achim Häger
Position: Lecturer in Natural Resource Management
Program: Sustainable Development Studies, Costa Rica

Today, I organized a field experiment with the objective to set up a monitoring protocol for the condition of our fruit trees together with our students. Unsurprisingly, insect damage and fungal diseases have been increasing since we banned pesticides. Monitoring is an important step in the process of integrated pest management, because it allows us to control problems early and in a focused manner.

Organic agriculture is a serious challenge in the humid tropics, where herbivores and crop diseases are abundant the whole year around. We accept this challenge, because we think that this is in line with what we are teaching at The SFS Center for Sustainable Development Studies, and because it is a great opportunity to experience this transition together with our students and to learn a lot along the way.

In the end, a first-hand learning experience is a more valuable resource for us than shiny, nice looking oranges and mangoes grown with harsh agrochemicals, even if we inevitably suffer setbacks along the way. The most important lesson is that sustainable agricultural practices are not always easy to achieve, but that it is possible to take significant steps towards this goal. We have been encouraged by numerous examples of sustainable farms that we are visiting throughout our academic program. Hopefully, we will be able to integrate our local community into this effort and to spread these practices beyond the Center.