Hoping to inspire young Seychellois to revive the island nation’s vanilla industry, the Ministry of Culture recently hosted a conference on the history of the plant in commemoration of the 155th anniversary of its introduction to the Seychelles. .
Introduced in 1866, vanilla was one of the island nation’s earliest agricultural industries and the basis of wealth for many landowners at the time. Vanilla growers ceased production for export in the 1960sa due to the cheaper synthetic vanillin that most countries were purchasing. Today, there are only a few vanilla plantations left in the country.
National History Museum curator Bella Rose said: “We wanted to educate young people about the importance of our country’s historical and cultural heritage. We have targeted the students of SIAH (Seychelles Institute of Agriculture and Horticulture) so that they can start planting vanilla. We would like to relive that time and add more value to the product, ”said Rose.
She added that “with the technology we have today, students can develop the industry in a different way for the country and it could become a profitable business for them.”
Belonie high school student Gierrah Leon said she learned a lot from the conference.
“For example, I didn’t know that vanilla was used in cosmetics and to make coca-cola. Today I know it. At the time, the Seychelles were exporting vanilla and it’s a shame we had to stop, ”Leon said.
During his presentation, local historian Tony Mathiot said that the expansion of vanilla cultivation in the Indian Ocean islands began when a 12-year-old slave boy, Edmond Albius from Reunion, a department French overseas, discovered how to pollinate the plant by hand.
The conference is part of a series of activities organized by the museum to provide more detailed information on topics dealing with the history and cultural heritage of Seychelles. The next activity will take place in November, where discussions will focus on the Possession Stone, one of the oldest monuments in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.
After the conference, two high school students and two others from the Institute of Agriculture planted two vanilla plants on the museum grounds.
Leon who was also one of the students said it was a remarkable moment.
“The vanilla planted at the museum will allow tourists to see the plant when they come here and learn more about its history. At the time, the Seychelles exported vanilla and it’s a shame we had to stop “, she added.