Trass encourages communities to ‘live with the land’


Photo 1_Trass engages communities to ‘live with the land’ at a recent workshop on Praslin

As a result, several plants found only in Seychelles, like the Coco de mer, turn into ashes. The land lay bare, exposed to the rains and winds which wash the soil and ashes into rivers and the sea. What impact will the sediment-laden red water have on the coral reef and our livelihoods?

These were just some of the reflections and concerns raised at the recent workshop organised by the Praslin-based Terrestrial Restoration Action Society of Seychelles (Trass) to launch one of their projects on Praslin.

Trass, which aims to rehabilitate (replant) degraded lands, received funding from the Global Environment Facility – Small Grant Project (GEF-SGP) implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for a project named ‘Replanting and enhancing community participation in rehabilitation of degraded forest lands: a demonstration project at Pt Chevalier, Praslin, Seychelles’ in short ‘Living with the Land/Viv avek Later’.

The half-day workshop and field trip took place in December last year and was attended by 30 representatives from organisations like the GEF SGP Seychelles, UNDP Project Coordination Unit, department of environment, Seychelles Agricultural Agency, private landowners, Seychelles Island Foundation, Praslin Development Fund, Aride Reserve, hotel operators like Coco-de-Mer, Les Villas d’Or, Côte d’Or Lodge, district administrations, education department, scouts and wildlife clubs.

 Field trip at Pte Chevalier

A key element of the workshop was the ‘ice-breaking’ activity where the delegates had a two-minute discussion with anyone in the room on the topic of fire. Several observations were made during the ‘ice-breaker’.

“I remember a fire 40 years ago at Anse Boudin,” said Christelle Marie. “I was still a little girl at that time, but I remember the bell ringing in the village indicating there was a fire. Men and women with machetes and buckets rushed to the site but it took them three or four days to extinguish the fire. At that time, though exciting for us kids, I did not understand the consequences of forest fires, but now I realise it is a destructive force in our forests”.

Further discussions were stimulated, mainly on the causes and consequences of land degradation as well as remediating measures.

“The laws are not effective enough,” said one delegate “they are outdated and the fines are too low to deter people. Perhaps Trass could play a role in advocating for such changes.”

Others think there are underlying social issues, like drugs and theft, that push people towards irresponsible behaviour.

Group work around Trass posters gained delegates’ input and views about issues like fire, soil erosion, replanting techniques and living in harmony with nature. The posters generated a lot of debate and were an effective tool in creating awareness among the delegates as well as noting their contributions for the realisation of future posters.
The field trip was the last item on the agenda but also the most exciting one.

Those who took part had the opportunity to visit a site at Pte Chevalier where Trass has been undertaking a replanting trial to test the performance of different plant species for future, wider scale rehabilitation programmes. Not all plants can grow on such bare, poor and degraded land. Hence, it is important to know which plants can grow best in these conditions. “I am shocked by the nature of this site,” exclaimed a young gentleman who did not expect to see such degradation. A lady also contributed her views: “I have come to Praslin several times. From the boat I could see the exposed red soil but I never realised it was that bad.”
They were impressed with the difference between the Trass replanted site and the degraded site. They even provided advice on other rehabilitation techniques, for example using bio-fertilisers and considering wider spacing between plants.

 “Overall, they were all satisfied with the event. There was good involvement and a lot of contributions were received. The field trip was an excellent tool to enhance the delegates’ knowledge and raise awareness on the issue of land degradation on Praslin. Most were shocked by the state of the land,” said Dr Elvina Henriette, the project leader.

One year after replanting we can spot the difference between the replanted site on the left and the way it was before (the non-replanted site) on the right

“It has been our aim to gain support from the communities and at the same time seek their involvement in the project. I can say that this has been successfully achieved. On behalf of Trass, I would like to thank all delegates, partners and sponsors who took part in the event,” she said.

Through this project, Trass intends to showcase the advantages of rehabilitating lands that have been degraded through forest fires as well as testing and promoting good replanting and soil conservation techniques for future rehabilitation.
In so doing, Trass hopes to empower Praslinois to take ownership and responsibility of their environment.

Contributed by Terrestrial Restoration Action Society of Seychelles

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