Chefs for Health and Development
Championing local food production can only be good for the economy to promote a green recovery and sustainable development that leaves no one behind.
One of my delights in Seychelles is the unique local Creole cuisine, a fusion of cooking from different social groups in the country, which is an expression of their cultural heritage.
I was on an official visit in Seychelles when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the country in March 2020. Everything came to a standstill. Our meetings were cancelled. We were able to do one or two skype calls as we did not know about zoom then! Of course, I had to change my plans and take the last flight out of the country. Leaving behind two of my colleagues to continue.
I missed the meetings and the discussions planned for my mission, which were mainly to review progress on the implementation of the United Nations (UN) and government cooperation framework. But what really made me sad was the face of one restaurant owner at the beach in Beau Vallon. Suddenly, we were the only three customers in a restaurant that was very popular- where people had to reserve a table in advance. In addition, the entire country was in shock. Food reserves continued to reduce while imports stopped due to disrupted logistics chain, as movements between countries were no more. The COVID-19 pandemic affected the tourism industry, including food business.
The pandemic illustrated the fragility of the food systems and the dangers of over relying on food imports.
Despite a relatively large share of land available for crop and livestock activities, and fishing being the second most important economic area, Seychelles imports the majority of its produce. Challenges in the movement of goods during the COVID-19 crisis heavily affected the economy
At the global level, these challenges were being observed and in September 2021 the UN organized the worldwide Food Systems Summit to discuss such issues. It is in this context that the government of Seychelles (the Ministry of Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment) in partnership with UN Food and Agriculture Organization, facilitated by the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office, organized the national food systems dialogue. Small in-person focused discussion groups were held with participants from various stakeholders, including farmers, youth, government and civil society. One of the consultations explored the role of Executive Chefs in helping to transform the current food systems.
In response to the COVID crisis, there is a growing movement of chefs and food importers willing to work with local farmers and producers to source high-quality domestic products to reduce over dependance on imported food.
The chefs formed a “Chef for health and development” group to work with local entrepreneurs to promote the use of locally produced high-quality food in cooking. This movement is part of Chefs for Development, an initiative across island states in the Caribbean, South Pacific and the Indian Ocean. They aim to build linkages between the culinary and agriculture sectors to encourage the use of healthier, locally sourced food and agri-food products to appear on chefs’ menus.
At the same time, Seychellois entrepreneurs have revived the production of domestic crops such as cassava, sweet potato, banana, and spices. Encouraging independence at the level of production has seen the transformation of raw products into flour, gluten-free biscuits, pickles, or jams.
Seychelles food cultural heritage and can be preserved and sustainable tourism promoted.
Championing local production can only be beneficial for the economy. The needs of the industry will be supported by encouraging producers to move away from the low value chain vegetables and to produce more refined and high value products. Important benefits include moving towards eliminating the carbon footprint; contributing to the improvement of the lives of farmers and their families; and encouraging the younger generation to see the importance in farming and fishing. The UN family will stand firm in its commitment to Leave No One Behind and to support Seychelles in such initiatives which promote green recovery and sustainable development.