The Seychelles is burdened with meetings – scores of them every month with the majority having little impact. However, I attended a very interesting workshop recently which despite not getting enough publicity will, in my opinion, turn out to be a game changer. This was the national food and nutrition security workshop organized by the Ministry of Natural Resources.
I was impressed by the notion of trying to rebrand agriculture as the food AND nutrition security sector. By doing so it is possible to shift our thinking and find new and innovative solutions for agriculture in Seychelles, which by all accounts is in the doldrums
It’s not an easy task. At the meeting, all sorts of problems were tabled. The sector is affected by many factors including loss of arable land, economic liberalization, climate change, to name only a few. The seeming disinterest of young people to enter this sector was discussed. The Horticultural and Agricultural Training Centre became an easy scapegoat for the lack of trained young recruits.
But, a similar problem exists in other parts of the world. A recent survey of horticultural businesses in the United Kingdom found that 70% cannot fill skilled vacancies, 20% are forced to recruit overseas and almost 70% claim that entrants are inadequately prepared for work. It seems that British youths believe that horticulture is for those who don't quite make it elsewhere.
Yet, all indications point to what many experts are calling a “coming food crisis”. With the multiple shocks of high oil prices and domino effect down the food production chain, increase in biofuel production, the credit crunch, speculation in commodity markets, higher demand for food in India and China, and climate change impacts, a total revolution in the way people think about food and agriculture is needed.
Experts from the City University of London have said that the UK will have to rely on a return to past methods of food production. The country needs to re-learn the gardening skills it lost a century ago, they say. The country has to consider planting on a massive scale as well as encouraging people to eat more fruit and vegetable, they conclude.
I have been promoting similar ideas through the Heritage Garden program at Nature Seychelles. We have to take agriculture beyond the traditional farms and make it everyone’s preoccupation. We should actively support household and community gardening on a nationwide scale. One of the concepts I’ve disseminated is “edible landscaping” which is possible in all our urban areas. The Ministry and the Seychelles Agricultural Agency are supportive, but we need donor funds to move to the next level.