The University of Mauritius inaugurated its first Endemic and Medicinal Plant Garden on Wednesday 9 November 2011 at the University Farm. Dr the Hon Rajeshwar Jeetah, Minister of Tertiary Education, Science, Research and Technology, the initiator of this project, was invited to launch the garden.
Initially, some 30 indigenous species have been planted and in the long run, it is expected to showcase the 315 species which are endemic in the Mauritian flora. The launching was held for the occasion under a traditional tent made up of palm leaves, bamboo shoots and other natural on-site resources which enhanced the endemic scenery of the tropical island.
The unique Endemic and Medicinal Plant Garden “will capture the rich heritage of endemic and medicinal plants of the country” says Associate Professor Marie-Francoise Driver, Dean of Faculty of Agriculture. The objectives of the garden are to enhance teaching and research activities, promote public awareness on environmental issues and biodiversity conservation, and to encourage the conservation of traditional knowledge of endemic and medicinal plants.
Indeed, the biodiversity picture for the island’s flora is darker than imagined. Mauritius is considered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources as the third island with the most threatened flora after Hawaii and the Canary Islands. Around 60 percent of the endemic plant species are threatened, which implies some 200 species.
Impressed by the efforts of the FoA students and university staff, Prof Jugessur invited the students to look into the many applications of these plants, whether medicinal or pharmaceutical, and advised them to engage into the creation of Small and Medium Enterprises. Hopefully, he said that this Endemic Garden would “awaken the spirit of nature within all of us”. On a lighter note, the Minister of Tertiary Education aroused the audience’s interest through a small quiz game related to Endemic plants and gardens. The unveiling of the Commemorative Plaque and the Ribbon Cutting ceremony resounded with symbolism when Priyadarshinee, the youngest registered student of the Faculty and Mr Kitaruth, most senior staff of the University farm with over 40 years of service, led the way to the planting ceremony at the endemic garden.
The whole event was orchestrated by Mr Kamlesh Bhoodhoo, FoA lecturer and Officer-in-Charge of the Agricultural Production & Systems Dept and Mr Shane Hardowar, Acting Farm Manager, and the staff of the University farm. This venture could not have been achieved without the help of valued partners such as the Ministry of Agro-Industry and Food Industry, the National Parks and Conservation Service, Vallée d’Osterlog Endemic Garden Foundation and ENL society, whose collaboration were acknowledged by the Dean of Faculty.
This glorious day will surely remain in the memories of all the staff, students and members of the Faculty of Agriculture and the UoM Farm as they took up the challenge for the conservation of the Mauritian plant biodiversity.