Nature Walk—a chance to reconnect with history and nature

Zayan listens eagerly as he looks at the trees. Photo: UNDP Maldives
Zayan listens eagerly as he looks at the trees. Photo: UNDP Maldives

 

“Really?!” young Yoosuf Zayan was left amazed when he was told of the white fruit of  Half Flower Tree (locally referred as ‘Magoo gas’), a plant found near any beach of the Maldives, was a traditional healing agent used to prevent reddening of eyes from swimming.

 

Like Zayan, reactions from majority of the participants of the first-ever ‘Nature Walk’ were astonishing as they, for the first time, heard about the vast traditional uses of trees and shrubs they encounter every day in their lives.

 

This was the purpose of organizing the nature walks— to educate and create awareness on biodiversity and to let people know how trees and plants contributed in keeping their islands safe from key environmental problems such as coastal erosion. And most importantly, to help people reconnect with the lifestyle of their ancestors and how much they had relied on the natural environment around them in their everyday lives.

 

“There were so many things about trees that I didn’t know before. [Trees] that I thought were useless had so many different uses that I didn’t know before,” said Zayan who turned twenty-one this year.
 

 

Groups walking in Nature Walk
Majority of participants were young people. Photo: UNDP Maldives

The groups participating in the series of nature walks strolled around Villimale’ where they were introduced to some fifty different species of plants and trees found in the island.

 

UNDP team and volunteers had put up permanent labels for some 42 plants which identified their English, Dhivehi and the scientific names.

Abdulla Adam, an expert on plants and an avid plant lover, who also is the Small Grants Officer of the UNDP’s Tourism Adaptation Project (TAP), led the charge in the walks.

 

“This,” he told the group, “is ipil ipil. A tree not native to this country, but was deliberately introduced to address the shortage of firewood back in the day. It’s an invasive species, as you can see that it has got a strong foot hold around here and has diminished the native flora,”

 

 

Adam explains to the group about plants
Adam briefing to a group of participants about a plant species

Adam stopped in fifty different spots around the island to explain the use, origins and the nature of each of the fifty different species of plant identified for the walk.

 

Each tour, originally planned to be completed within an hour and a half, got dragged as Adam had to answer a lot of questions from the eager participants.

 

“Maldivian people are extremely good at incorporating natural resources into their everyday lives. Our history, at least the origins of these plants testify to that. It was a wonderful experience to see the people reconnecting with their own history. The Nature Walk is more than just a stroll around the island. It is also some sort of an awakening,” Adam shared his experience.

 

The Maldives, although considered one of the most environmentally vulnerable countries in the world, houses a globally significant biological diversity. This ecological setup has benefited the Maldivians for generations. It had provided them with food, timber for setting up of fires, building of houses and for its famous boat building industry.

 

However, with modernization new threats are emerging that may disrupt the balance of this ecological system. In order to ensure the sustainable use of these resources, UNDP through its various initiatives have sought to garner public attention around the need for conservation.

 

“The Nature Walk organized as part of World Environment Day celebrations in the Maldives is also one such small, but effective initiative by UNDP,” Adam said.

 

This year’s theme for the World Environment Day calls for collective efforts to be put in realizing the dreams of seven billion people living across the globe. In this regard, on June 5th, the world united behind one message— Seven billion dreams. One planet. Consume with Care.

 

“I think we need more nature walks. And I think we need it in a more frequent and consistent manner. If we want more to be done, I think these things should be further elaborated in our education system. We need to carry the voice,” Zayan reflected on what he felt must be done to keep the momentum going.

 

“I am definitely bringing my friends over here and I will tell them what I have learnt,” he added.

 

As Zayan had highlighted, UNDP, too, sees the importance and significance that environmental awareness programmes carry with it. Which is why, UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Energy and local NGOs are now envisioning regular nature walks not just in Villimale, but also in other parts of the country.

 

“We want this information to be readily available, perhaps in the form of a mobile application that could help people, in the future, to enjoy a self-guided tour of the plants that we have mapped for this nature walk series,” Adam added.

 

A Catalogue of Plants prepared by the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture in 1992 of Maldives being habitat to some 429 species, or which 122 are recognized for their medicinal value.

Adam stopped in fifty different spots around the island to explain the use, origins and the nature of each of the fifty different species of plant identified for the walk.

Each tour, originally planned to be completed within an hour and a half, got dragged as Adam had to answer a lot of questions from the eager participants.

 

“Maldivian people are extremely good at incorporating natural resources into their everyday lives. Our history, at least the origins of these plants testify to that. It was a wonderful experience to see the people reconnecting with their own history. The Nature Walk is more than just a stroll around the island. It is also some sort of an awakening,” Adam shared his experience.

 

The Maldives, although considered one of the most environmentally vulnerable countries in the world, houses a globally significant biological diversity. This ecological setup has benefited the Maldivians for generations. It had provided them with food, timber for setting up of fires, building of houses and for its famous boat building industry.

 

However, with modernization new threats are emerging that may disrupt the balance of this ecological system. In order to ensure the sustainable use of these resources, UNDP through its various initiatives have sought to garner public attention around the need for conservation.

 

“The Nature Walk organized as part of World Environment Day celebrations in the Maldives is also one such small, but effective initiative by UNDP,” Adam said.

This year’s theme for the World Environment Day calls for collective efforts to be put in realizing the dreams of seven billion people living across the globe. In this regard, on June 5th, the world united behind one message— Seven billion dreams. One planet. Consume with Care.

 

“I think we need more nature walks. And I think we need it in a more frequent and consistent manner. If we want more to be done, I think these things should be further elaborated in our education system. We need to carry the voice,” Zayan reflected on what he felt must be done to keep the momentum going.

 

“I am definitely bringing my friends over here and I will tell them what I have learnt,” he added.

 

As Zayan had highlighted, UNDP, too, sees the importance and significance that environmental awareness programmes carry with it. Which is why, UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Energy and local NGOs are now envisioning regular nature walks not just in Villimale, but also in other parts of the country.

 

“We want this information to be readily available, perhaps in the form of a mobile application that could help people, in the future, to enjoy a self-guided tour of the plants that we have mapped for this nature walk series,” Adam added.

 

A Catalogue of Plants prepared by the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture in 1992 of Maldives being habitat to some 429 species, or which 122 are recognized for their medicinal value. 

Adam stopped in fifty different spots around the island to explain the use, origins and the nature of each of the fifty different species of plant identified for the walk.

Each tour, originally planned to be completed within an hour and a half, got dragged as Adam had to answer a lot of questions from the eager participants.

 

“Maldivian people are extremely good at incorporating natural resources into their everyday lives. Our history, at least the origins of these plants testify to that. It was a wonderful experience to see the people reconnecting with their own history. The Nature Walk is more than just a stroll around the island. It is also some sort of an awakening,” Adam shared his experience.

 

The Maldives, although considered one of the most environmentally vulnerable countries in the world, houses a globally significant biological diversity. This ecological setup has benefited the Maldivians for generations. It had provided them with food, timber for setting up of fires, building of houses and for its famous boat building industry.

 

However, with modernization new threats are emerging that may disrupt the balance of this ecological system. In order to ensure the sustainable use of these resources, UNDP through its various initiatives have sought to garner public attention around the need for conservation.

 

“The Nature Walk organized as part of World Environment Day celebrations in the Maldives is also one such small, but effective initiative by UNDP,” Adam said.

This year’s theme for the World Environment Day calls for collective efforts to be put in realizing the dreams of seven billion people living across the globe. In this regard, on June 5th, the world united behind one message— Seven billion dreams. One planet. Consume with Care.

 

“I think we need more nature walks. And I think we need it in a more frequent and consistent manner. If we want more to be done, I think these things should be further elaborated in our education system. We need to carry the voice,” Zayan reflected on what he felt must be done to keep the momentum going.

 

“I am definitely bringing my friends over here and I will tell them what I have learnt,” he added.

 

As Zayan had highlighted, UNDP, too, sees the importance and significance that environmental awareness programmes carry with it. Which is why, UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Energy and local NGOs are now envisioning regular nature walks not just in Villimale, but also in other parts of the country.

 

“We want this information to be readily available, perhaps in the form of a mobile application that could help people, in the future, to enjoy a self-guided tour of the plants that we have mapped for this nature walk series,” Adam added.

 

A Catalogue of Plants prepared by the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture in 1992 of Maldives being habitat to some 429 species, or which 122 are recognized for their medicinal value. 

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