Seychelles’ Department of Culture Seeks to Entice Island Nation’s Youth By the Vanilla Market

In the hope of inspiring younger Seychellois to relaunch the island nation’s vanilla industry, the Department of Culture held a history talk about the plant recently in commemoration of the 155th anniversary of its introduction in Seychelles

Introduced in 1866, vanilla was one of the first agricultural industries in the island nation and the basis of wealth for many landowners at the time. Vanilla growers ceased production for export in the 1960a because of the cheaper synthetic vanillin most countries were buying. Today, few vanilla plantations are left in the country.

The curator of the National Museum of History, Bella Rose, said: “We wanted to sensitise the youth on the importance of the historical and cultural heritage of our country. We targeted students from SIAH (Seychelles Institute of Agriculture and Horticulture) so that they may start planting vanilla. We would like to relive that time and give the product more value,” said Rose.

She added that “with the technology that we have today, the students can develop the industry in another way for the country and it might become a profitable business for them.”

A student from the Belonie secondary school, Gierrah Leon, said that she learned a lot during the talk.

“For example, I didn’t know that vanilla is used in beauty products and to make coca-cola. Today I know this. Back in the day Seychelles used to export vanilla and it is a shame that we had to stop,” said Leon.

During his presentation, local historian Tony Mathiot said that the expansion of vanilla growing across the Indian Ocean islands started when a 12-year-old slave boy, Edmond Albius from Reunion, an overseas French department, discovered how to pollinate the plant by hand.

The talk is part of a series of activities being organised by the museum to provide more detailed information about topics dealing with the history and cultural heritage of Seychelles. The next activity will be held in November, where talks will be about the Stone of Possession, one of the oldest monuments of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian ocean.

After the talk, two secondary school students and two others from the Institute of Agriculture planted two vanilla plants on the compound of the museum.

Leon who was also one of the students said that this was a remarkable moment.

“The planted vanilla at the museum will allow tourists to see the plant when they come here and learn about its history. Back in the day Seychelles used to export vanilla and it is a shame that we had to stop,” she added.

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