Eco-friendly farmer encouraging Seychellois to grow and eat their own food from a tender age.
The excited chatter of a group of more than a hundred children drowns out the sound of machines and tractors as they follow Jean-Paul like the pied piper into his farm. Unlike in the tale of the pied piper in which the children disappeared into the hills, the visit to Geffroy’s farm for the five to six year olds from Mont Fleuri School is an exciting learning experience from which they leave with bags of goodies.
One hundred and four pupils, eight teachers and eight parents visited Jean-Paul Geffroy’s farm in Anse Royale to learn about plants and vegetables. They also received four copies of Nature Seychelles’ second edition of the book Grow and Eat Your Own Food, Seychelles gifted to them by Jean-Paul.
“Each term we choose a theme to teach the children. This term we were focusing on vegetables.” explains Ms. Micheline Scholastique, one of the teachers accompanying the pupils. “It is important for children at this age to see the actual plant because these days a lot of children in Seychelles live in flats and do not get to see how vegetables are grown.”
There are moments of silence as the children look and listen in awe as they walk through the farm learning about tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and other vegetables growing at Geffroy’s farm. They are thrilled when Jean Paul picks peppers and hands one to each of them.
It is not just the children who are learning about farming. Teachers and parents listen keenly and ask several questions as Jean-Paul talks about some of his eco-friendly farming methods such as steaming the soil and using glued plastic plates rather than pesticides. Then all attention is focused on the seeding machine as Jean-Paul leads a demonstration on how it works.
Soon the children are asking for a drink but their thirst is momentarily forgotten as they get to the fish pond. The excitement flares up again as Bettina who works at the farm throws in several handfuls of feed and bright orange coy rise to the surface to eat. “I have tilapia, Koy and guzon (Seychelles killifish),” says Jean-Paul. “But this for me is just a hobby.”
Jean-Paul seems to enjoy sharing his land with the fish as much as he enjoys sharing his knowledge and produce. After the tour, all the pupils and teachers each receive a bag of seedlings to go and plant as well as a large bag filled with lettuce, Chinese cabbage, ochre and tomatoes to take home.
“We live in a small Island but it is important for us to find a way to grow our own vegetables” he says to the children. “Maybe tomorrow some of you will have a career in agriculture.” When he asks them how many of them would like to work in his farm in the future, all of them eagerly raise their hands. Jean-Paul bought several of Nature Seychelles’ book Grow and Eat Your Own Food Seychelles which he gave for use by the teachers, parents and pupils. Perhaps this will help in the early learning stages of their farming skills.
“Agriculture is an important sector in our economy.” affirmed Ms Maryvonne Francis from the ministry of employment. “We need to educate our children from an early age on the skills and the importance of agriculture. We want to encourage more children towards this field as it contributes greatly to our economy.”