Australian High Commissioner delighted by Gardens for Growth Project

The Australian High Commissioner to Seychelles Ms. Sandra Vegting has expressed her delight at the progress made by the Gardens for Growth project being implemented by Nature Seychelles and funded by the Australian government. The project benefited from a grant from the Australian High Commission Direct Aid Programme for Seychelles and Mauritius  and begun in February 2012.
The Gardens for Growth project was developed in response to current social problems facing the Seychelles, in particular those associated with substance abuse. It works at the rehabilitation stage with  clients from two rehabilitation centres in Seychelles - the Centre Mont Royal and Centre d'Accueil de La Rosière.

Participants have learned gardening skills and received conservation training during their time with the project, with 31 out of the 30 targeted gardening sessions already delivered ahead of the February 2013 project completion date. Others are set to obtain conservation and tools training. Out of the targeted two gardens, one has been finished with a constructed nursery.

"The idea is simple. We are addressing social issues by merging the appreciation and protection of nature, with practical and transferrable skills that can be used by participants to build their livelihoods and re-enter the economic mainstream," said Dr. Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles Chief Executive.

It is also a part of a wider Nature Seychelles programme that is using nature for the benefit of people.  Activities take place at the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman, which has been rebranded as a "Park for People." The idea to help people see parks beyond their value for flora and fauna originated from Australia with Parks Victoria, the High Commissioner heard. Nature therapy on the other hand has been widely applied in the UK.

It is expected that after the project, those who have participated will be able to apply their skills in a commercial basis either in self-employment or elsewhere in the job market, particularly in the tourism industry.

"It is for this reason that we have sent the training modules to the Seychelles Qualifications  Authority so that the skills they receive are recognised," Martin Varley, the Community and Stakeholder Coordinator said.

In addition to the work skills, participants are also building their self confidence and self esteem, often eroded by substance abuse. "The social interactions increase their well being and have the potential to reduce depression and lethargy, while enthusing them to truly envisage a better future for themselves," said Robin Hanson, the Green Health Coordinator who, alongside the horticulturalist Lucina Denis, works closely with the groups.

Participants have learned a variety of innovative and inexpensive techniques such as how to build raised beds out of roofing sheets, concrete blocks and casuarinas poles, and how to make compost bins out of  old packaging palettes, made more efficient with the use of old inner tubes otherwise destined for the landfill.

A variety of crops including rocket, coriander, aubergine, courgettes, beans, bananas, papayas, and coconuts now grows in the new garden.

Ms. Vegting who is a keen gardener said she well understood the therapeutic power of gardening. And while on a tour of the new garden she had the chance to plant chillies. She was also shown around the garden and saw the various innovations being used such as space saving palette planters, rain water collection and the making of organic liquid fertilizer using guttering pipes.

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