In a bid to revive the vacoa artisan industry in Seychelles, the Little Explorers Club based at Bel Ombre has planted seven out of a scheduled 50 plants at the Domaine Val De Pres heritage site recently.
The Little Explorers plan to plant more vacoa trees at Bel Ombre in their garden where they are already cultivating fruits and vegetables. Those on Praslin, in partnership with Terrestrial Restoration Action Society of Seychelles (TRASS), are producing some more vacoa plants.
The Little Explorers Club, comprising children of 4 to 12 years old, was created by a not-for-profit organisation – Gaea Seychelles. There are presently two groups – one at Bel Ombre on the main island of Mahe and the other on Praslin, the second most populated island. The club promotes community-based activities relating to the environment, culture and tradition.
Last year, the Little Explorers focused on crafts made out of coconuts and this year it is vacoa crafts.
The vacoa is a very distinctive large parasol-shaped plant with aerial roots. It is not a palm tree. The vacoa tree can reach 20 metres in height and is used in weaving and in some countries as traditional medicines.
The director of Gaea Seychelles, Dr Elvina Henriette, said that these are skills that children are unaware of, and it is slowly fading out of Seychellois culture.
Henriette says that these days few artisans work with vacoa leaves and no one is planting the trees either, so they are trying to promote the idea of planting vacoa plants to supply the artisanal industry.
Crafts made from the vacoa plant. (Juliette Dine) Photo License: CC-BY
“We want these children to learn these things, this is why we did the tree planting activity. We want the children to know more about the plant and what we can do with it and later in their life they can become entrepreneurs,” she said.
“If we as adults don’t transfer the knowledge to our youth, the new generations will not know about it! It is easy to say that children of today know nothing but if we don’t share the knowledge, therefore, the children will not know,” added Henriette.
The 50 young vacoa plants were provided by TRASS, which prepared the seedlings.
The vacoa plant, which is used by artisans to make bags, hats and mats, can hardly be seen around Mahe, said the executive director of the National Heritage Resource Council, Benjamine Rose.
“Cultural practitioners have to go further into the forest to collect vacoa leaves. This tree planting activity is a very important one as it provides an opportunity to revive the vacoa industry and the fact that it is being done by the Little Explorers is very encouraging,” she added.