Community efforts guarantee food and nutrition security in the Seychelles

Location: Seychelles. 24th Aug 2018

A community group in the island of Perseverance in the Seychelles is taking the lead in climate-proofing their homes by taking actions to guarantee food and nutrition security for the community. The group, led by women, is adopting sustainable practices in developing home gardens and a community nursery as climate change, and the associated risk of extended drought periods, is threatening the food and nutrition security of the community.

The “Preparing tomorrow today: Women as Agents of Climate Change Action” project, supported by Mangroves For the Future (MFF), has seen people in the community learn about climate change, rainwater harvesting for watering gardens and preparing for the drought season, and improving their food and nutrition security through a home garden and composting green household waste.

 

Ile Perseverance is an artificial island along the North East coast of Mahé, the

Today, there 1,500 homes in the villages of Perseverance 1 and 2, ranging from semi-detached to three story apartment blocks, accommodating mainly families from the low income brackets © Elke Talma - MFF/IUCN

Ile Perseverance is an artificial island along the North East coast of Mahé, the main Island of Seychelles. Reclamation work to build the island started in 2000. By 2013, houses were already being constructed. There are currently 1,500 homes in the villages of Perseverance 1 and 2, accommodating mostly low-income families.

The soil on Perseverance Island is poor, alkaline and slightly saline. Homes are built close together with very little space for plants. Gardening is a challenge and residents go to great lengths and costs to bring soil from other parts of the main island of Mahé to enrich the soil at Perseverance.

An important component of the project is the setting up of community gardens. Spearheaded by a local non-governmental organisation, the Gender and Media Association (GEMPlus), the project – aimed at women so that they become agents for change for climate change action – is teaching residents how to set up their own home gardens and thus become self-sufficient and less reliant imported items. Reducing importation of items that can be grown locally is an important component of not only improving national food security, but also in reducing the community’s carbon footprint – an especially important outcome for a Small Island Developing State (SIDS). The project also helps families set up rainwater harvesting systems, to reduce the cost of maintaining the gardens while ensuring that planting can be extended through the dry periods of the year.

Students learn how to garden, take on the responsibility of watering the plants

Students learn how to garden, take on the responsibility of watering the plants during school time and even get to buy produce at low cost to take home to their families © Elke Talma - MFF/IUCN

For Mrs Beryl Dookley, a physical education teacher in the island’s primary school, the project has changed lives, empowered women, and transformed her community for the better. Beryl has great pride in the community nursery which was set up in her school compound, the Perseverance Primary School. The seedlings and young plants in this community nursery are shared amongst the 33 project beneficiaries for them to plant at their homes, and eventually harvest and share with the family in healthy and nutritious home cooked meals.

This nursery has changed my life. I’ve developed such a passion for gardening that I am in the nursery every day, including Sundays after church,” said Beryl.

The school nursery is a model for the community and for the country as a whole. It showcases collaboration between local communities and schools. School children help maintain the nursery, during school time. GEMPlus and several schools have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to allow participants of the project to access the school compound to water and tend the nursery. Children from the school’s environmental clubs have also been engaged in the gardening project, by helping to water the plants and persuading their parents to also take up gardening.

Having their own gardens have really benefited the communities. Residents have already started saving on the purchase of vegetables, reducing household expenditures on food by at least 25%.

To ensure sustainability of the project and to foster a sense of buy-in and engagement in their own community, a community-based organisation called “Perseverance an Mouvman” or “Perseverance in motion” was established.  The organisation was formally launched on World Oceans Day on June 8, to highlight the significance of living on a low lying island in the face of rising sea levels from climate change. With Beryl as the first chairperson, the CBO aims to be the guardian of the environment of Ile Perseverance.

In addition to building capacity within the Perseverance community, the project has given residents the opportunity to network with other community groups. On International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22, some CBO members were invited to plant trees with the Water Shed Committee of Baie Lazare during the inauguration of their recently constructed water reservoir, that helps extend the growing period for local farming in the area.

 

During Biodiversity Day, some CBO members were invited to plant trees with the Water Shed Committee of Baie Lazare during the inauguration of their recently completed water reservoir. © Elke Talma - MFF/IUCN

Since the project started in March 2016, members of the Perseverance CBO have visited an aquaponics project at the University of Seychelles, planted trees at an artificial water reservoir on the west coast of Mahé, and also planted mangrove propagules in the nursery managed by the Constance Ephelia Resort at Port Launay, among many other activities.  Such activities have enabled the CBO to develop a relationship with the Port Glaud Environment Club (PGEC), established under a previous MFF project with Sustainability for Seychelles and the Watershed Committee of Baie Lazare.

For Beryl Dookley and for her other colleagues, this community empowerment project has been a life changer. Like 32 of her fellow residents involved in the project, Beryl has learned how to be more prepared for climate change in simple, practical ways that provide multiple benefits to communities.

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Residents from Perseverance island are benefiting from a ser ... © Elke Talma

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