Just before Christmas we spent a couple of mornings working at our nature reserve at Roche Caiman with children from the President’s Village. We have a project funded through a program called Mangroves For the Future. The program was set up after the 2004 tsunami to increase the resilience of coastal communities, like us in the Seychelles, against environmental threats such as climate change.
Our project involves creation of a new area of mangroves within the reserve, to demonstrate how even the most unlikely areas, like the reclaimed land our reserve is sited on, can help us adapt to our changing world.Children planting mangroves
In order to create our new mangrove habitat, we are growing seedlings in a small nursery. The young trees are then planted in areas of the reserve where mangroves are currently absent. The hope is that they will flourish and, accompanied by regeneration from existing mangrove, a healthy mangrove swamp will ultimately develop.
So we had the children down to help us plant up the nursery. It is dirty, messy work, but just the kind of things kids enjoy: exploring among the trunks and roots of established mangroves to collect suitable seedlings; getting their hands covered in the dark grey coral fill soil as they plant the seedlings in plastic bags which can easily be removed to their final location once they are the right size; and then wading knee deep in salty swamp water to place the bagged-up seedlings in the newly created nursery. By the end of the morning the kids are tired and mucky, but happy.
These visits to the nature reserve are about more than just planting mangroves. Scientific evidence from fields as diverse as ecology, biology, medicine, environmental psychology, landscape design, health promotion and psychiatry to show that access to nature plays a vital role in human health, wellbeing and development. Research indicates that humans may be dependent on nature for psychological, emotional and spiritual needs that are difficult to satisfy by other means. An extensive literature review, conducted by Deakin University, Australia, 2008, found well over two hundred respected studies indicating that the human health benefits of contact with nature could not be overstated.
This is borne out in our experience with the President’s Village. Carers who bring them say that when they have been to the nature reserve the children are calmer for the rest of the day and many of them say they find it easier to sleep when they have been here and spent some time outdoors. So being here is not just about us getting some help with our work we are also helping to contribute to their wellbeing.
So, if this festive season has stressed you out with too much eating, spending and quarrelling with friends and family about what to watch on TV, then why not make it a New Year’s resolution to experience nature more and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of spending time in the great outdoors.