On March 21st, Seychelles joined the rest of the world to celebrate the International Day of Forests. While in Seychelles, we have a tendency to use the term ‘in the woods’ rather than forests, their importance, regardless of how we refer to them, is of great significance to our ecological and biodiversity systems, not forgetting also our tourism industry.

Forests cover 31% of the Earth’s land surface and provide us with a variety of essentials to sustain our daily lives such as food, water, oxygen and building materials. They provide the same for the other creatures we share the earth with, extending their services to providing shelters and homes. Forests are at the forefront of the battlefield in the war against floods and landslides, protecting us from the devastation these phenomena can bring. Healers and health enthusiasts are also big fans of forests, vouching for their healing and medicinal properties.

Forests also have recreational purposes where locals and visitors alike get away from the hustle and bustle of towns, cities, roads and network coverage to feast their eyes in the beauty of nature. Statistics from the National Statistics Bureau show that Hiking & Nature Walks was the second preferred activity of almost every nationality that visited Seychelles in the last quarter of 2017 (www.nsb.gov.sc).

The Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) is the leading organisation in the country managing forests and ensuring that trees which are cut down or we lose to diseases are replaced. Under the SNPA mandate, thousands of trees are planted all over the islands every year to maintain the country’s biodiversity. The SNPA manages in total, 485.25 hectares of land in Seychelles.

 Tree planting is only part of the picture. Protection of our forest areas is also high on the agenda. Identifying invasive plants which can be harmful to their endemic counterparts, and removing them have also been part of SNPA’s activities.

Job opportunities in the timber industry are managed by the SNPA who has to ensure that harvesting timber is done in a sustainable manner.

Education and advocacy is an important part of SNPA’s mandate. Regular hikes and clean-ups are organised for different groups in order to give them the opportunity to learn about the importance of forests and also to experience and appreciate them.

The SNPA organised four activities over a span of two days to commemorate ‘Forest & Education’ which was the theme for this year’s International Day of Forests.  In line with the theme, the activities were focused on education and school children.

 

Tree Planting and official Launch

Salazie, Sans Soucis was where the commemoration kicked off with an address by SNPA’s Chief Executive Office, Selby Remy.  24 students from Port Glaud, Mont Fleuri and La Rosiere Schools then joined staff from SNPA and the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change to plant 400 trees. The trees consisted mainly of palms and mahogany and the crew worked in groups of 3’s to locate suitable spots for planting and then proceeding to dig the holes and remove the plant from its poly pot to be placed in the ground.

Tree Planting on Curieuse Island

SNPA collaborated with the Seychelles Development Bank (DBS) and Praslin-based NGO, Terrestrial Restoration Action Society of Seychelles (TRASS) to plant 400 trees with the participation of students from Baie Ste Anne Primary school.

Trail cleaning and exploration

10 students from Beau-Vallon Secondary school and their teacher were accompanied by SNPA rangers on the Mare Aux Cochons Trail for them to discover and appreciate the value of our forests. SBC Radio’s “Dekouver ou Zalantour” also joined the adventure and the programme will be aired in April. The students learned about invasive plants and helped the rangers uproot large amounts of them.

Plant Production Session at Grand Anse, Mahé

There was more action than talk at the SNPA Grand Anse Forestry Station where 27 Grand Anse Primary students, along with two of their teachers, participated in various aspects of plant production, from nursery to planting in the field. The session lasted for half a day and 100 endemic trees were planted.

The Minister for Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Mr Wallace Cosgrow, in his message for the occasion re-iterated the importance of the theme, stating, ‘one is never too young nor too old to start learning about trees and plants, and schools must play an important role in teaching about the importance of trees and forest.’ The message also highlighted the connection we have to forests in our daily lives from simple things such as drinking a glass of water to building a house.