The Sanctuary and Heritage Garden

Evolving a bird sanctuary into a platform for a range of innovative activities and programs combining nature and people.

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Eligibility Criteria

  • I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge and that I am eligible to apply.
  • I am 18 years old or older.

Initiative's representative name

Nirmal Shah

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative's representative gender

  • Man

Headquarters location: country

  • Seychelles

Headquarters location: city


Where are you making a difference?


Website or social media url(s)

Website: Instagram: Facebook: Linkedin:

Date Started


Project Stage

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?

  • €1k - €10k

Organization Type

  • Nonprofit/NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

The Sanctuary at Roche Caiman originated from coastal reclamation works carried out in 1986. Prior to Nature Seychelles taking over management it was a wasteland, of no value to neighboring communities, a focus for anti-social behavior and under threat from prospective developers. In 2006, Nature Seychelles began a creative and complex wetland restoration project, unique to the Seychelles, to bring new life to the site.

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

One of the main problems we are trying to solve concerns the negative stress response patterns generated as a result of the increasing complexity of both technological societies and the built environment. Living in urban areas often means dealing with environmental demands such as crowds, noise, pollution, and primarily uniformed structures. These factors can cause mental fatigue and exhaustion, whereas exposure to nature has been demonstrated to have the opposite effect.

3. Your solution: How are you working to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

The park provides several opportunities for such therapeutic leisure activities for many community audiences at a range of levels, such as: •Participating in our wildlife watching and nature-related activities at the Sanctuary – studies show that people who regularly pursue nature-related activities have greater overall health and life satisfaction than those who do not. •Exercises and activities as part of our Green Health program – studies suggest that children function better both cognitively and emotionally in green environments. For adults, viewing nature improves concentration, remedies fatigue, improves psychological health, reduces stress and promotes recovery. •Gardening and working with plants in the Heritage Garden – which is among the most popular leisure pursuits in the world. Among its therapeutic benefits are that it helps people to feel tranquil and at peace and it improves their psychological well being. •Activities for rehabilitating vulnerable groups - studies show that vulnerable groups benefit from leisure activities in nature through enhanced self-esteem and sense of personal control.

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

In 2009 we created the Heritage Garden - a community garden growing local food and medicinal plants to engage people in growing plants and inspire communities to do it themselves. A year later a Green Health project was initiated at the Sanctuary, providing nature-based physical and mental exercise for all ages. This was followed by a nature therapy programme targeted at the vulnerable in society such as groups of at risk adults and young people, including prisoners and recovering drug users. Substance abuse and dependence, is seen as the single most serious health and socio-economic problem in Seychelles today. This provided the groups with appropriate mental, physical and practical skills to improve their livelihood options.

5. Collaboration: How does your initiative seek to bring key players together to preserve biodiversity?

Our initiative has successfully engaged a wide variety of local & international players. Since its opening the Sanctuary has been visited by thousands of local schoolchildren, who use it as an outdoor classroom. Personnel from the US and British navies have visited on a number of occasions to help with conservation work during their rest and recreation periods, mixing with local staff and community volunteers to benefit themselves and the environment. Local businesses have also sent their staff to carry out similar conservation work as part of their company’s commitment to the local community. The garden has impacted on local schools and communities who want to know more about preserving and maintaining this heritage, by connecting them to practitioners of traditional medicine, serving as a seed nursery and educational center. The Green Health programme engages many women, who would perhaps not otherwise have felt confident in an outdoors setting and children as young as 2 years.

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far — in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

The heritage garden regularly produces agricultural products that are sold to the community, while teaching and encouraging the propagation of similar gardens. It also serves as a means to preserve the cultural heritage of the Seychellois people by maintaining medicinal plants used in traditional medicine – many of which are growing more difficult to find as a result of urbanization and invasive species. 200 copies of the gardening book, "Grow and Eat Your Own Food , Seychelles" based on the garden were printed and sold to encourage people to propagate their own gardens.

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

Primarily, the growth strategy involves creating new initiatives that promote the benefits of the park to a wider audience. We are currently piloting solutions in the agricultural field to a pertinent problem in the Seychelles, saltwater intrusion. We hope that our findings can aid farmers who are struggling with this issue. As an accredited educational institute, Nature Seychelles can also continue to develop training courses and educational material, which are in demand from both local communities and businesses.

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for society? Or different stakeholders?

It generates value by being a community centric area where community members benefit from engaging in therapeutic activities such as yoga, knowledge acquisition that enhances their food security and biodiversity protection which allows for their cultural heritages to be passed down. The agricultural products are also of economic value. Since the parks inception, it is the first and only of its kind, providing a product that local businesses, schools and international visitors are all attracted to.

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

The park is supported through the fundraising work of Nature Seychelles and the fees raised by some of the programmes. The social capital built through community participation also enhances sustainability, and has proven long tern sustainability.

10. Team: what is the current composition of your current team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

The team consists of: CEO Administration Officer 3 Gardeners - A mixture of traditionally taught and university accredited staff. All of which are full time.

11. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others


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