Category Archives: Heritage Gardens

Club members inspire at Garden Opening

 We had a wonderful opening of the Heritage Garden at Roche Caiman on World Food Day (see related posts preceding this one). During the opening, Wildlife Clubs members Elissa Lalande and Isis Rath gave an inspiring speech. I have copied it below in verbatim for your reading pleasure.

Heritage Garden Opening

Honourable Minister for Environment, Natural Resources and Transport  Mr. Joel Morgan,
Principal Secretaries,
Members of the National Assembly
Chairman Seychelles Agriculture Agency
Chief Executive Officers
Managing Directors
The Farmers Association

Invited Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning and welcome to the official opening of the Heritage Garden at Roche Caiman.

Today the world is also celebrating the World Food Day, under the theme “Achieving food security in times of crisis!”

Nature Seychelles and the Wildlife Clubs of Seychelles would like to thank you for responding to our invitation.

Actually, the theme, “achieving food security in times of crisis”, is well fitted with the current world economic trend of increased food prices due to a number of challenges such as Climate change, bio – energy, loss of genetic diversity…etc.

World Food Day also highlights the critical plight of almost 1 billion undernourished people in the world. In Seychelles, however, although consumers do not directly see the impact, farmers are already starting to face the difficulties of securing adequate food for the Nation’s daily need. Consequently, the people of Seychelles are being called upon today to contribute their share in producing food for their household. It is not impossible but with a little bit of will – power and wise use of spaces in and around our homes, our schools, our community and, why not, where possible around our work places!

Ladies and gentlemen, if we all take a quick look around us, you will see that what we are telling you is possible, is indeed possible!

As a matter of fact, this demonstration garden has already taken wings through replications by 22 other school-based wildlife clubs on Mahe, Praslin and La Digue promoting the use and value-added products of the plants through learning programs and exhibitions.

We sincerely hope that with the opening of our Heritage Garden here at Roche Caiman, more members of the wildlife clubs and the public will have the opportunity to be enthused, inspired and excited during their visits.

Let us on behalf of the organising committee, thank you all for attending the ceremony.

We have the pleasure to offer you a guided tour in the Garden and please have some snacks and refreshment before you leave.

Elissa and Isis

Elissa Lalande and Isis Rath

Schools demonstrate that growing and consuming locally is possible

Sara-at-heritage garden

Today is Blog Action Day. Bloggers around the world are writing about the single subject of climate change in order to draw attention to it. This post was inspired by members of twenty two School-based Wildlife Clubs of Seychelles who, through replicating the Heritage Garden model, are showing that growing and consuming locally is possible.To celebrate World Food Day tomorrow (16 October 2009), the Heritage Garden at Roche Caiman will be officially opened. It is a model for the Heritage Gardens project whose 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. See related post below for more information.

Heritage Gardens are also being used to encourage people to reduce the country’s ecological footprint by growing foods locally. Seychelles has limited land for agriculture and the country imports almost everything it needs. An ecological footprint is a measure of sustainable living, and by this measure we are not sustainable at all. We contribute to climate change because the imports arrive in ships and planes that produce global warming gases. The Heritage Gardens are intended to help reduce our ecological footprint by encouraging people to have pride and joy in producing and consuming locally.

So far Wildlife Clubs in 22 schools have small to medium gardens based on the Heritage Garden model. They are demonstrating that it is indeed possible to produce food locally.

Heritage Garden at Roche Caiman: Preparations underway for official opening

 Heritage-garden-display

Things are shaping up here at Roche Caiman as we prepare for the official opening of the Heritage Garden. Lucina is pruning and watering. Displays are up at the Kiosk. Invitation cards have been sent.

The opening of the Garden will coincide with the World Food Day, celebrated annually on 16 October. This year’s theme is Achieving food security in times of crisis. Nature Seychelles and the Seychelles Agriculture Agency will sign an MoU at the opening, enabling these two organizations to work together.  Other partners joining in these festivities are the Wildlife Clubs of Seychelles, Seychelles Fishing Authority and the Farmers Association.

The Heritage Gardens© is a joint Project between Nature Seychelles  and the Wildlife Clubs, with the collaboration of the Department of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Education. Its vision is to introduce young people to plants that were valued by their parents enabling them to become custodians of a rich biological heritage.

The Heritage Garden at Roche Caiman has been designed by Nature Seychelles as a model to be replicated by Wildlife Clubs in schools and by the community at home. Not only do we collect plant species that are richly filled with historical value for propagation in the school-based clubs as well as to the adjoining communities, we also collect and collate their stories. 22 schools are taking part in the project. School Heritage Gardens© range from small to medium sized ones. Learning not only concentrates around the use of these plants but also basic ecological concepts, history, folklore and language.

The Heritage Garden at Roche Caiman has the Gro Manze, loosely translated as the “big food”, the  generic Creole vernacular for starchy food crops like yams, taro, sweet potatoes, plantains (cooking banana) and breadfruit.  Another section has different kinds of spices. Another medicinal plants. In the past Geriser (healers) and Herbalists had knowledge of which plant to pick for anything from a rash to a critical fever. They kept extensive gardens of medicinal plants. The sad thing is that today they are few and far between. The garden reminds us that these plants are beneficial to us.

This Project won the Commonwealth Youth Development Award in 2007. The citation read: By preserving and maintaining an important part of Seychelles culture and traditions that is in danger of being lost, 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.”

Mr. Hoareau and the bees

When Nature Seychelles first attempted to hung a beehive at the Heritage Garden, the only creatures that seemed to benefit were the lizards (Seychelles Skink) abundant on most Islands. A queen bee had been discovered in the Garden with many bees around her. So Mr. Hoareau, a bee expert with 40 years experience was called in to organize the colony and collect some honey. However efforts came to naught when in Terence’s words, ” a bunch of lizards had a big feast on the bees’ larvae and also ate up all the honey”. The skinks had discovered an entrance to the hives.

Mr. Hoareau’s and his bees

Mr. Hoareau has been called in again to jump start our honey project. This time he comes prepared. He has sealed all entry into the beehive and designed the hive in a manner to only allow entry for the bees. Mr. Hoareau is photographed below at work attracting the bees to his hives using citronella from the Garden and other sweet smelling plants.

Mr. Hoareau’s with a hive

The beekeeping project at the Heritage Garden is intended to encourage the community to start similar projects. Honey was used in traditional medicine in the Seychelles and has many benefits. It is however becoming expensive to buy. It is our hope that this project takes off, and that we get to the honey before the skinks!

Sweet smelling Gardenia and foul-smelling Noni

If you have ever heard about the benefits of Noni juice, and you would like to try it for yourself, go ahead and drink some. Just don’t smell the fruit.

That’s what I did. Lucina had brought in some fruits to make juice, and out of curiosity I picked one and took a whiff. Well I can tell you the smell is horrid. Like “a combination of stinking socks and the worst French cheese” was Cousin Wardens’ colorful description. The Noni plant grows well on Cousin.

But those who drink Noni juice seem to be able to get past the smell of the fruit. Noni juice itself  is pretty tasteless and doesn’t smell bad. I know this because with some encouragement from Lucina, I did manage to gulp down half a glass. Luckily, the Wrights Gardenia had flowered. So while taking pictures, I inhaled its sweet perfume and was rid of the old socks smell.

Wrights-gardenia

Wrights gardenia scent saves the day…

On a serious note, the propagating of the Noni and the Wrights Gardenia at our centre is part of Nature Seychelles efforts to promote diversity and encourage traditional use of plants. The Noni plant grows wild in many parts of Seychelles and is used in traditional medicine. Nature Seychelles has even gone on Radio to urge Seychellois to start drinking Noni juice. They had quite some success after they said that it makes one young and beautiful (but what if one was old and ugly to begin with, asked a caller?)…

noni-fruit
Lucina reaches for a noni fruit, Terence is interviewed…

Wrights Gardenia is a special and rare plant. Its endemic to Seychelles where it only grows naturally on Aride Island. Terence planted the one outside some six years ago.

What about you? Have you heard of Noni. Do you think its stink makes up for its benefits?

Related topic: Nirmal Shah’s “the World has become generic”.

Heritage Garden: Sharing nature and its healing power

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of showing visitors from the Regional Home for the Elderly at North East Point, Mahe, around the Heritage Garden next to our centre at Roche Caiman.

The home is a residential facility that provides care for the elderly. Caregivers at the home engage the residents in a number of therapeutic activities. One of them is gardening. They say gardening provides much needed relaxation and improves physical and mental health.

The home has therefore been very interested in our garden and plans are underway to help them create their own. The visitors engaged Lucina, our plant expert, in a steady stream of dialogue, asking about the benefits of various plants. Yesterday’s visit helped to identify different plants they would like to have.

Lucina told me later that one of the objectives of the garden is to rescue plants grown by older generations of Seychellois and use them once again in traditional ways. Many Seychellois have grown up around gardens. What a pleasure then it was to re-connect gardening with some of its friends.

About the Heritage Garden:

This demonstration Heritage Garden© at Roche Caiman has been designed by Nature Seychelles as a model to be replicated by Wildlife Clubs in schools and by the community at home. Not only do we collect plant species that are richly filled with historical value for propagation in the school- based clubs as well as to the adjoining communities, we also collect and collate their stories. We promote the use and value-adding of plants through exhibitions and learning programs. We encourage young volunteers to work with us in this Garden to gain skills and knowledge. We open up this Garden to the public to enthuse and excite people.

Heritage gardens bestow DIY mosquito repellent

heritage gardens at Roche Caiman

 The heritage gardens

Yesterday, I spent some agonizing  seconds chasing a lone mosquito out of our office. I didn’t enjoy the little bites it was taking and the buzzing near the ears certainly didn’t help. Being nature friendly, we don’t use insecticide or pesticide here at Roche Caiman. Eventually, the lone ranger left the building. But it got me thinking. Malaria is a huge problem, so is Yellow fever and the West Nile virus, all spread by mosquitoes. So no one likes mosquitoes really. The most natural thing for anyone to do, especially anyone who’s been in the grip of malarial fever, is to find the quickest means to be rid of mosquitoes. This usually involves substances that are unfriendly to the environment like insecticide.

But there are friendlier alternatives. I found some advise ranging from wearing light clothing – apparently mosquitoes are attracted to dark clothing –  and reducing your carbon aura. This is the aura you emit when CO2 comes off you, like when you exercise or sweat. See more tips here. But what got me really interested – in our weather, sweating is the default setting – was the list of natural insect repellents that use the essential oils from plants as a base such as peppermint and rosemary oil. What you do is crash these plants and rub the oil in key areas such as the ears. So I rushed out to our Heritage Gardens – see first post – to ask Lucina, our naturalist what she had in the form of natural mosquito repellent.

From the list she had Citronella, Cinnamon and Rosemary. That saved the day. Hey, what’s cooler than getting rid of mosquitoes without carrying the guilt of actually killing one (you know am half kidding right?) and being friendly to the environment?

Related post: Seychelles food security: edible landscaping on Nirmal Shah’s Island Life blog.