World Environment Day: IAEA Supports the Seychelles with Irrigation and Soil Management

World Environment Day: IAEA supports the Seychelles with irrigation and soil management

Experts from Sentek Technologies (Austrlia) train farmers in the Seychelles on sustainable soil and water management to improve their crop yields and secure their livelihoods through a project supported by the IAEA. (Photo: SSA)

The Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands and atolls, has limited land resources. The islands’ soils have very low organic matter content, low water retention capacity and high salinity, and are generally infertile. This affects the livelihood of farmers and the food security of the country’s local communities. With IAEA support, the islands’ farmers are now learning more about sustainable soil and water management to improve their crop yields and secure their livelihoods.

“The effect of IAEA assistance was almost immediate,” said Jean-Paul Geffroy, owner of Geffroy’s Farm. “It helped me better understand the content of my soil, what to do next, what I was doing wrong, and what I could do better.” Hear more about Geffory's experiences in this audio interview.

The IAEA-supported technical cooperation project aims to assess soil degradation using radionuclides and stable isotopes to quantify soil erosion and to develop effective soil conservation measures.

This project is an example of how the quality of soil, a precious resource and a source of life, can deeply affect the lives of people. The IAEA’s collaboration with Member States is also a reflection of the importance it puts on recognizing United Nations World Environment Day today with the theme, “Consume with Care”, as well as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ designation of 2015 as the International Year of Soils with the theme, “Healthy Soils for a Healthy Life”.

Addressing the complications of soil salinity and sodicity

The Seychelles project focused on the problems of soil salinity and sodicity (these terms signify an excess of salt and sodium in soil, respectively). The principal goal of the project is to train the staff of the Seychelles Agricultural Agency (SAA) in the use of nuclear techniques to monitor soil salinity and sodicity, and to provide farmers with the necessary data based on the assessments.

Mark Naiken, Chief Executive Officer of the SAA, expanded on the challenges faced by farmers like Geffroy, explaining “agricultural workers in Seychelles face many problems, from pests and disease to insufficient animal productivity. In view of these problems, we sought IAEA assistance in order to resolve our difficulties and to help farmers better produce their goods.”

Seychelles farmer World Environment Day

An IAEA expert mission on irrigation and salinity management has been providing technical training on salinity measurements and data analysis and interpretation, as well as practical issues related to the use of soil water and soil salinity data in irrigation scheduling. Intensive training with hands-on exercises specifically targeting the farming community was also provided, as well as a train-the-trainers programme that aims to ensure that the institutional knowledge built over the course of the project is preserved. These IAEA services support research, training, technical guidance, and the application of technologies to strengthen national practices and capabilities. To find out more, watch this video interview with the owner of Geffroy Farm, the Principal Research Officer and the CEO of the Seychelles Agricultural Agency involved in the project.

Building Partnerships

Working with the UNDP Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grant Programmes, the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture, and the University of Aberdeen, the IAEA project will provide specific training for SAA staff as well as local farmers on improving soil conditions with the help of nuclear applications. This, in turn will enable the transfer of knowledge and know how to Member States on the use of nuclear technologies to assess and strengthen soil and water management practices, and to improve and develop new varieties of crops and plants. The technical support for this project is provided under the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and IAEA Division.

A thin layer of soil is most often all that separates bountiful harvests from failed crops, and healthy communities from food-insecure ones. Protecting the world’s soil is essential for all people today and for the future. Through multilateral cooperation, partnership-building, and scientific research the IAEA and key partners work together to ensure that soil remains as rich, healthy, and as bountiful as possible.

Last update: 10 March 2016