The international Environment Day theme this year is ‘Think, Eat, Save’. Linking food and agriculture with the environment is timely. It comes at a time when Seychelles has been ranked the last country in Africa in meeting agricultural goals – a very dubious distinction indeed!
I have pleaded repeatedly for a new approach to food and nutrition security in Seychelles. The Nature Seychelles’ Heritage Garden at Roche Caiman is showcasing some exciting aspects of this new approach to a distinctly Seychellois agriculture – “going back” to what I call the Creole Garden.
The Heritage Garden project was initiated by Mermedah Moustache of the Ministry of Natural Resources and myself some years ago and the Wildlife Clubs enthusiastically took it on board. The demonstration Heritage Garden at Roche Caiman was developed as an advocacy and educational site.
By introducing young people to plants that were valued by their parents the Heritage Garden aims to connect several generations of Seychellois to become custodians of a rich Creole heritage and at the same time establish a new relationship with the food they eat.
The word Creole itself has entered global parlance as a word denoting the unique blending of food, language, music, oral culture and peoples. So the Heritage Gardens project with its mixture of history, lore, green medicine, and food crops is part and parcel of our culture.
Indeed, the Heritage Garden at Roche Caiman is always a centre point of dialogue. Visitors end up discussing and debating keystones of the Creole way of life including folklore, customs, etiquette, health, history and so forth.
The project therefore can really be regarded as a Creole Garden. The Garden has root crops, fruits, grains like maize, spices, “forgotten” foods like pom edwar, and even a good array of medicinal plants used in traditional medicine.
Creole gastronomy includes manioc, yams, breadfruit, bananas, snake gourd, pumpkin, tropical fruits. The cuisine uses hot chilis and other spices such as kari pile and katrepis. The Heritage Garden showcases all these.
Since Creole tradition is dynamic we have planted herbs such as Basil, Dill, Parsley and Rosemary which are now in demand by the community. Seychellois are fusing Italian and other cuisines with our day to day fare and are using herbs and foodstuffs we never used before.
Visitors to the Garden have also been inspired to tap into an older knowledge base to use medical plants in traditional ways but additionally for new practices such as face masques and Noni juice.
The future for food security in Seychelles is to merge our traditional way of life with the best of new technology and practices. That’s what Creole culture is all about!
Photo: Herbalists & agronomists at Nature Seychelles’ “Creole Garden”
Adapted from Gaia, the author’s column in The People