Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Vertical Garden – a solution to the urban food blues?

Nature Seychelles portable Vertical Garden



So you want to grow herbs and spices but you don't have enough space? Live in an apartment and don’t have land around you for a veg garden? Have no fear Nature Seychelles has come up with a solution that will give everyone a garden. On the occasion of World Food Day vertical gardens are the latest innovation launched by Nature Seychelles’ Heritage Garden programme. Our portable model has been built from ‘found’ wood and recycled ice cream tubs, but really, you can use bamboo, plastic guttering, pipes, fencing or any other appropriate material. The garden can be as big as you want it to be. I would like to see a time when every home in the new estate at Perseverance has a thriving vertical garden. Wow! That would give each household a good measure of food security.


Why is the vertical garden important as a concept? Because we must encourage everyone in Seychelles to grow food. Seychelles is a Small Island Developing State (SIDS) and like all SIDS has an extreme vulnerability to climate change. It is also one of the most urbanized nations in Africa and coupled with mountainous terrain has little arable land available for conventional agriculture..

Today, traditional food crops, fruits and medicinal plants in Seychelles continue to disappear from communities and from peoples’ cuisine. A limited range of fruits and vegetables, a substantive portion of which is imported, is generally utilized. Already media reports indicate that the second most populous island of Praslin is suffering from a deficit of fresh produce.

But, the farming community continues to shrink as fewer young people join it preferring to enter tourism and other professions. This is aided and abetted by the continued loss of arable land to tourism and urbanization.

Superimposed on this rather grim situation comes the greatest crisis of all - climate change. Global warming has badly affected agriculture in Seychelles. Unseasonal rains damage farms and prolonged droughts cause crop failures and hardships. Salt water intrusion, especially on smaller islands, make farm soils unsuitable. The range and distribution of pest species is increasing owing to higher rainfall and increased humidity and temperature.

The Seychelles also has the largest per capita carbon footprint in Africa. Much of this comes from the heavy reliance on imported products. Imported products include a high percentage of food and related items.

On a global scale, along with the big spike of high oil prices and the domino effect down the food production chain come the increase in biofuel production, the credit crunch, higher demand for food in India and China and carbon emissions from food transportation. A revolution in the way we think about food and agriculture is needed.

New ways of creating climate-smart and island appropriate agriculture are needed to build food security and resilience. I think that in a small, remote island nation like Seychelles all citizens should be introduced to a new partnership with agriculture to conserve and use plants, reduce alien species, inculcate self-reliance and reduce the country’s carbon footprint.

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