Nature Seychelles is contributing to COVID-19 bounce back by revitalizing its Heritage Garden at Roche Caiman.
Organic gardening provides some form of self-sufficiency
The Heritage Garden is a demonstration organic garden established 15 years ago to create a self-sustaining educational tool to inform people about the cultural, nutritional, medicinal, and environmental importance of traditionally cultivated crops. It has been successfully replicated in schools and the community and has been used to promote innovation such as edible landscaping and vertical gardens, and improving livelihoods for the vulnerable in society. Two editions of the widely acclaimed and well-received "Grow and Eat Your Own Food, Seychelles" book, drawing inspiration from the garden were published.
Several new activities have been added to boost harvests during the pandemic. Among these are a new plot to experiment with different crops and in-demand garden produce such as tomatoes and herbs, soil enrichment for better production, and planting of fruit trees to provide shade in open areas with too much sun. Barriers have been improved to keep out stray dogs. Composting is being done with household waste and decomposing leaf litter. Seaweed that comes in through the channel, which connects the adjacent Sanctuary at Roche Caiman to the ocean is being washed and dried and added to the compost.
A new plot to experiment with in-demand garden produce such as tomatoes has been created
From the garden, the NGO has recently harvested a variety of garden goodies that include Okra, Brinjal or Eggplant, Bitter gourd, Butternut squash, Chinese cabbage, different herbs, and even a first-time trial of Zucchini. Most of these are snapped up by staff as soon as they are harvested.
"Organic gardening provides households with some form of self-sufficiency during the best of times," says Nature Seychelles' Chief Executive Dr. Nirmal Shah, "but in a crisis such as the one we are faced with, these gardens become even more valuable. When the food supply is interrupted, one of nature's best solutions is to turn to your surroundings. Organic gardening provides both sustenance and a sense of stability."
The NGO decided to revitalize its garden and increase production to fill the gap in the market for local produce. Currently, it's producing just enough for staff and a limited clientele.
"We have seen, for example, how recently there were no tomatoes in Seychelles. We had to look inward and ask ourselves if we can't do more to produce what we need," says Eric Blais, a staff member.
This is timely in the face of growing local demand for food and the agricultural sector’s objective of achieving national food security during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Local food gardens are gaining traction - from backyard plots to balcony pots. It is encouraging to see people turning back to the once-abandoned practice of farming, Shah says. "Because of economic development and changing lifestyles, a “modernizing” effect led to people leaving what is regarded as old fashioned and to the adoption of new Western-style diets," he explains.
"Yet, a garden - and our ancestors knew this - provides one with healthy food crops which can help you literally eat your way to health," he concludes.
See also: Pimp my Agriculture