One Monday morning while reading one of Seychelles' local dailies, Jean-Paul Geffroy, manager and owner of Geffroy's Farm, came across an article covering the launch of Nature Seychelles' book 'Grow and Eat Your Own Food Seychelles'.He immediately set out on a mission to get in touch with Dr. Nirmal Jivan Shah, Chief Executive of Nature Seychelles to share what he was doing and see how the two organizations could work together.
Jean-Paul is a self made eco-friendly farmer at Anse Royale. Although Jean-Paul admits that he is not yet but would like to be a purely organic farmer owing to the pressures of production on his 3.6 hectare commercial farm. "However, I use safe biochemical products which are not harmful to the environment," he adds.
Like many farmers, Jean-Paul is caught in an ongoing battle to control common farm pests such as leaf minor, aphids, shoot borers, triphs and so forth, whose populations he safely controls with neem oil from the neem tree.
"A product like neem is good because it does not kill insects but acts as a repellant." he explains. "I came across neem a few years back when I was doing research on bio chemicals. It's a safe product to use because what it does is slow down the reproduction of pests and deters further infestation."
"Neem is natural, so you can pick your vegetables and eat them almost immediately unlike with vegetables treated with dangerous chemical pesticides," Jean-Paul says. "It is not harmful to human beings, the water or the soil." Bio chemical products such as neem are also not harmful to bee populations which are integral pollinators.
“We spent an entire morning with jean Paul at his farm and I was extremely impressed by the change-making practices and technology he has successfully introduced." says Dr. Shah. "He is very interested in organic farming and we really encouraged him to move further in this direction as we think it is a growing market and one that is good for people and the environment.”
As a third generation farmer , Jean-Paul is determined to transform the farming methods of older Seychellois generations with more innovative techniques.
Geffroy's farm uses a seeding machine which plants several hundred seeds within a matter of minutes, saving time and cost, as well as reducing the potential of contamination as hand planting does. He also uses a steaming tractor which introduces pressurized steam at a hundred and ninety degrees into the soil to eliminate bacteria and pathogens at the root level.
At the same time, Jean-Paul says that he appreciates the work ethic and value of farming skills passed down from his grandparents and parents, down to him. Jean-Paul regrets not having had formal education in farming or another related training at University level but learned a great deal from his parents who made sure him and his siblings worked on their farm while growing up. "I got my farming degree from my mother, my father and my brother," he says as he laugh out heartily.
As a child Jean-Paul's father had a small scale farm growing vegetables, and rearing chicken, pigs and cows.Some of the produce from Geffroy's farm now includes tomatoes, lettuce, Chinese cabbage, cucumber, egg plant, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, capsicum, hot and long chilies, ochre, broccoli and many more depending on demand.
“Jean Paul is a new generation Seychellois farmer who is pushing agriculture in Seychelles to the next level at a time when this sector has taken a dive." says Shah "He is using environmentally friendly pest control methods as well as innovative soil enrichment products. I was fascinated to see that he is already adapting to climate change by re-designing existing technology like shade houses and drainage systems.”
Photos: 1) Geffroy's Farm 2) Freshly picked vegetables from Geffroy's 3) Eco-friendly greased plastic hanging over throusands of seedlings planted using the seeding machine 4) A worker at the farm preparing for seed planting using the seeding machine behind him 5) Jean Paul during a visit to Nature Seychelles' Heritage garden