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Mimoun Zeghdad is one of three lucky French consumers who recently won the trip of a lifetime to Malaysia. Mr Zeghdad travelled to Malaysia to see the natural beauty of our country and witness first-hand palm oil’s contribution to conservation and economic development. During his trip, he also met with small oil palm farmers and conservation experts. The trip was organized by MPOC as part of an initiative to address the untruths about palm oil in France. Following his return to Paris, Mr Zeghdad wrote a short text recounting his experiences and what he saw. Read his summation here below.

I lived a superb week exploring the fabulous country Malaysia for my first real trip to Asia. I cannot thank MPOC enough for having given me this opportunity.

It was a journey rich in new experiences. Whether it was discovering what went on behind the scenes of palm oil production; exploring the flora and fauna of Malaysia in the region of Sabah; Malaysian culture with its dances, its history and customs; tasting the rich Malaysian cuisine, or visiting the capital Kuala Lumpur with its countless historical sites; everything was memorable.

Here in France, I consume products which contain palm oil without necessarily knowing where it comes from or how it is made. Thanks to this trip, perfectly organized, from the beginning of our stay I was able to meet all the actors working in the production of palm oil in Malaysia.

Whether it was meeting the CEO Yusof Basiron that answered all our questions and was kind enough to spend some of his precious time with us, or visiting the Felda plantation where I was able to see the harvesting process with farmers at work and their organizations.

But also at MPOB’s research center, where this time I was confronted with the science of palm oil and studies which are undertaken showing that palm oil is good for our food and for health, contrary to what has been argued. What was interesting was to be at the center of the process, to see the fruit and the different stages of processing, with all its dietary benefits.

I knew that the controversy over palm oil was exaggerated and this trip only confirmed it. In France, all that is said about the danger of this oil is never qualified, presenting only the negative aspects.

What a beautiful country Malaysia is, what strikes you when you arrive, is all the density of ‘greenness’, all the oil palm trees and gigantic trees as far as your eyes can see. My visit to the botanical gardens with its countless flowers and plants of all kinds, my stay opposite the magnificent Mount Kinabalu, the canopy walk on the suspension bridge where we were at the heart of nature and where one feels its gigantic scale, showed me the extent of the biodiversity in this country.

The flora is beautifully preserved. And the wildlife, it was really something to see the orang utans playing in their natural environment during the visit to the Sepilok Orang utan Sanctuary, but also during the stay at Billit Adventure Lodge, where for the first time in my life, I participated in two safaris, both on a canoe on the Kinabatangan river, one at dawn and one during a torrential downpour, making you feel like an explorer hunting for treasurer. And there are hidden treasures in Sabah: I saw a crocodile in action, elephants, tropical birds like the Hornbill and the magnificent Kingfisher, long-nosed monkeys (the proboscis monkey) macaques. And during a night tour of the rainforest: Birds sleeping on branches, huge spiders, lizards, frogs and leeches too (ouch), etc. …. It is wonderful to see that the Malaysian jungle is still inhabited by these animals.

Malaysia has a diverse population composed of different nationalities and religions that live together. I cannot thank them enough for their exemplary hospitality, kindness and generosity. Malaysia is also home to tribes that I discovered when visiting the Monsopiad Village and during a dinner at the Fisherman’s village. I was able to take part in the eagle dance where you have to imitate this magnificent bird. Malaysian food, which is very rich and delicious (very spicy too, but I love it) also enabled me to taste foods that I was not aware of until now, like their peanut sauce, or various soups and delicious rice-based dishes. I also discovered the dragon fruit and durian and other fruits and unusual vegetables, especially when I visited the local market at the foot of the magnificent Mount Kinabalu.

Malaysia has managed to perfectly combine modernity and the conservation of nature, and the visit to the incredible capital Kuala Lumpur confirmed this to me, with its gigantic Petronas towers, the famous and busy streets where you can eat on the go, beautiful hotels and numerous shopping centers that Malaysians are also fond of, all coexist perfectly with the surrounding jungle and oil palm plantations.

During my stay, I was able to discover the Batu Caves I particularly liked the huge Hindu temple with golden Murugan statue and other monuments and temples that are part of the history of this beautiful city.

Countless images remain engraved in my memories and emotions. I only want to return to discover all the incredible things that this country still has because there are so many things to see that it is impossible to summarize and visit everything in a few days.

Thank you to all those who have made a dream a reality.

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