UNESCO World Heritage Site Vallée de Mai: Resilience through Knowledge and Technology
At the Vallée de Mai World Heritage Site, the Seychelles Islands Foundation invested #SOSAfricanHeritage project funds in COVID-19 protective material and technical equipment. This allowed the site to remain open and maintain a minimum level of tourism and conservation activities.
The aim of #SOSAfricanHeritage is to contribute to preserving independent and sustainable organisational structures at African World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves with the participation of civil society as well as to secure spaces dedicated to education for global citizenship, sustainability and cultural diversity.
Situated on the granite island of Praslin, the Vallée de Mai is a 19.5 ha area that has remained largely unchanged since prehistoric times. The landscape is dominated by the world's largest population of the endemic Coco de Mer, a palm tree of global importance. It is considered the carrier of the largest seed in the plant kingdom. The forest is also home to five other endemic palm trees as well as many animal species that only occur in a specific, spatially delimited environment.
Restrictions due to the pandemic
Before the outbreak of the pandemic, the Vallée de Mai was considered the most visited natural wonder of the Seychelles. The World Heritage site is currently experiencing a 97% decline in visitors. At the same time, poaching is increasing on its most valuable natural resource, the seeds of the Coco de Mer palm. While the direct loss of income is estimated at 2.05 million dollars, the ecological loss caused by poaching the seeds is not quantifiable. The Seychelles Islands Foundation, which has the task of preserving the World Heritage Site, does not receive a budget from the government, but finances itself. Its research and monitoring activities depend entirely on tourism revenues. At present, the activities have had to be cut back accordingly. This situation, combined with the increasing poaching of IUCN Red Listed Coco de Mer, poses an acute threat to the World Heritage site.
Remedy through new technologies and health protection
The project, funded by the German Commission for UNESCO, strengthened the resilience of the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve and the surrounding communities to the COVID-19-crisis. For this purpose, the Seychelles Islands Foundation installed an alarm and video surveillance system in the Vallée de Mai, trained security personnel and equipped them accordingly to prevent poaching of the seeds of the Coco de Mer palm tree. In addition, 100 seeds of the palm were planted with great commitment from the communities.
To keep the World Heritage site open under strict hygiene rules despite the COVID-19-pandemic, the project purchased protective materials, produced educational videos and installed information signs. As a result, the World Heritage Site was able to welcome 300 visitors per week, which is very important for the permanent financing of the conservation activities of the Seychelles Islands Foundation.
On the initiative of the Federal Foreign Office and the Goethe-Institut, an International Relief Fund was set up in summer 2020 to provide rapid support to cultural and educational organisations abroad during the COVID-19-pandemic. With its special support programme #SOSAfricanHeritage, the German Commission for UNESCO is part of the Relief Fund consortium.
- Site: Vallée de Mai
- Country: Seychelles
- Type of Site: UNESCO World Heritage (natural heritage)
- Year of inscription: 1983