A model garden that promotes the use of traditional food and medicinal plants was opened amidst much praise at the Nature Seychelles’ Centre for Education and Environment. The Garden was officially opened on 16 October 2009 on the occasion of World Food Day. It is a model for the Heritage Gardens project - an initiative started in 2005 by Nature Seychelles and Wildlife Clubs of Seychelles in collaboration with the Department of Natural Resources and Ministry of Education upon realization that food crops, fruits and medicinal plants were disappearing from farms, backyards and people’s cuisine. Its aims are, among others, promoting the love, nurture and propagation of traditional plants (edible and medicinal) by young people thereby passing on a rich biological and cultural heritage and encouraging a return to ways of sustaining life that were beneficial to people, the environment and left the least impact.
On hand for the opening was the Minister for Environment, Natural Resources and Transport, Mr Joel Morgan. Mr Morgan lauded Nature Seychelles efforts in establishing the model garden during a time when countries need to make progress towards food security.
Seychelles was not spared by the twin food and fuel crisis in 2007 and 2008 that fuelled an economic downturn, the minister said. Faced with this challenge, last year, the government launched its Food Security Strategy 2008 - 2011. Under the auspices of this strategy and as part of the celebrations, Nature Seychelles and the Seychelles Agriculture Agency signed a Memorandum of Agreement.
“The MOU attests further to the Government’s wish to see the development of public-private partnership in the Seychelles,” the Minister said.
The opening was witnessed by Members of the National Assembly, District Administrators, Principal Secretaries, officials from the Seychelles Agriculture Agency and Seychelles Fishing Authority, Wildlife Clubs leaders and members, and the public. It was followed by a tour of the garden.
The garden is looked after by a member of the Nature Seychelles staff with the enthusiastic help of school children on school break. They assist with such activities as potting of seedlings, replanting them, mulching and enriching the soil. Composting and rain water harvesting is also done.
Visitors were astonished to see what could be achieved with a little care and innovation, and were pleasantly surprised to find old and loved plants flourishing here.
“It is pleasing to see the response we got from the public and very heart warming to glimpse a resurgence of interest in preserving Seychellois agro-diversity”. Says Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles’ CEO. “Heritage Gardens serve the dual purpose of preserving a rich biological and cultural heritage, and encouraging a return to nature.” Heritage Gardens are being promoted in schools and the community. So far 22 school-based wildlife clubs have started small to medium sized gardens.
The Project has won many admirers since its start in 2005. In 2007 it was honoured by the Commonwealth Youth Development Fund for “preserving and maintaining an important part of Seychelles culture and traditions that is in danger of being lost”. The citation by the Commonwealth read in part, “the Project is of benefit to local communities. It adds value to the communities and their local resources by promoting understanding of the value of the plants that are around us, that fosters care of the local environment and a sustainable attitude to the use and continued existence of plant diversity.”
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