Mr. Peter Sinon, the Minister responsible for Natural Resources (Agriculture and Fisheries) and Industry, used the public holiday to go further afield to visit Denis Island to see for himself the successes of an island claiming to be as self sufficient as possible with the needs of its 25-villa resort and for the supporting population of over 100 staff residing on the island. The Mason family, the owners and managers of the island, operates an up-market resort. They have opted to practice agro-tourism whereby the farm simultaneously operates in parallel with the resort, providing the hotel guests and the staff with fresh and organic produce. The approach sees Denis Island almost completely self sufficient with pork meat, chicken, duck, rabbit, eggs, fresh milk, and a range of vegetables and fruits.
“It was a revelation and encouraging testimony for me to see, for myself, that ‘agro-tourism’ can and is successfully practiced, underpinned by an ‘ecosystems approach’ that respects the environment and the island’s natural resources and processes. I was impressed to find that contrary to what has hitherto been accepted as the norm, agriculture and tourism can and do co-exist side by side, and can be done successfully, if done well. It is thus proof that one sector is not mutually exclusive to the other, if implemented correctly - that is an exciting discovery in practice,” said Minister Sinon.
Denis Island’s owners and managers, Mr. and Mrs Mason, operate both the farm and the resort with a passion that knows no limits. They keep over 50 heads of cattle that they feed with the plentiful young coconut seedlings and coconut leaves that are first shredded and used as fodder. “I was as impressed to see hundreds of pigs of all ages and sizes, broiler and layer chickens, ducks, geese, and guinea fowl, all looking very healthy in intensified and clean surroundings. I was as impressed to see the level [of] recycling and re-use procedures. All kitchen wastes for example are boiled daily, together with coconuts and island papayas and other left-over fruits and vegetables, for feeding of the pigs. The use of shade houses and [a] drip irrigation mechanism ensures a constant supply of fresh vegetables and precious and scarce fresh-water conservation. Some vegetables and eggs, as well as processed meat, are sent to the main island of Mahe for sale, since they are surpluses. The farm was compact and managed with enthusiasm and lots of passion by the owners. It is a perfect example of what the FAO has endorsed as the new paradigm of ‘Sustainable Agricultural Intensification Practice,’” Minister Sinon said.
The Minister also inspected the island’s abattoir, its incinerator, and the cold storage facilities.
The anchorage facilities for fishing boats taking shelter off the island was also discussed with the Mr. and Mrs. Mason at Denis Island. The Minister appreciated that a better management of the situation needed to be put into place to ensure that fishermen had a secure mooring buoy while ensuring that the islands was able to maintain and protect its rat-free status that it is presently enjoying.
“Our islands, large or small, have the responsibility to play a part in the economic development of our country. The Mason family on Denis Island has put into place a manageable formula to ensure their resort benefits from locally-produced meats and vegetables. I support their initiative and want to encourage them to continue to build this eco-system and sustainable agricultural intensification approach that judiciously makes use of the natural resources, while not compromising the pristine environment that is the jewel in the crown of Denis. The agro-tourism formula is a product that allows agriculture to compliment the tourism industry with fresh, healthy, and locally-produced food. Agriculture thus remains an integral part of the island’s development.
“As we move forward, the fact that we are indeed ‘what we eat’ will increasingly raise the curiosity of the source of the diet, and in places like Denis Island where a pleasant and healthy bicycle ride will inform you of where at least 70 percent of your menu originates and are cultivated or reared, it can only be an added plus for the destination where you are supposed to feel isolated from the hassle and bustle of the life we all live. With the high level of food and nutritive security at any point in time, sleep should come fairly easy after one’s head hits the pillow at night.”
“Mr. and Mrs. Mason and their support staff need to be commended, and I did exactly that as I left the island,” Minister Peter Sinon said.