Travel diary : Mauritius

Hi everyone,

After the Comoros, here we are on the next island. Mauritius is an island the size of the Yvelines department in France, well known for it’s touristic appeal. Tourism indeed represents a large part of the mauritian economy, which is quite visible (everything’s ready to welcome as many tourists as there are people living here : hotels, villas, tour operators, guides, various activities, etc.). There are also many different energy resources to supply the growing demand of the country : sun, wind, waterfalls, etc. And we have a very different context awaiting us here!

In order to do our activities in schools in Mauritius, we need authorizations from the highest levels of the government. Everything is supervised : our activities must last a maximum of 70 minutes (2 periods of class). When we arrive, the authorization hasn’t been granted yet and the holidays are approaching fast. We will finally have to wait one month before being able to start the animations in schools. We take advantage of this delay to make a recap of our experience in the Comoros, to meet our contacts in the IOC (which is based in Mauritius) as it was scheduled in the beginning of the project to better organize it, to understand the energy context of the island and create new activities. And we also try to take care of our material still in the Comoros, a subject still full of surprises!

Example of schools from the Eco-school network, the pupils there drive and implement projects such as rain water gathering or endemic plants gardens

Here we are, we now have the authorization to go into “Green Flag” primary and secondary schools of the Eco-school network. The Eco-schools are an international network of schools engaging into ecological projects that must be implemented by the pupils. The projects must be linked to at least one among 10 great themes : energy, water, waste, biodiversity, healthy living, livelihood, air & soil, cultural heritage, climate change and ocean & coast. Each school receives a “grade” depending on it’s level of implication in the Eco-school projects process. The “Green Flag” is the highest rank, it requires to have already implemented various different projects, which means we will meet among the most advanced schools where the pupils are the most sensitised regarding ecology. However, energy remains one of the least chosen themes, the projects being essentially related to water (collecting and filtering rain water), waste management (waste sorting and recycling) or the environment preservation.

Presentation of our project in front of the teachers and representatives of the Eco-schools

Teachers here often benefit from trainings on different subjects during the holidays periods. Our first meeting with them then occurred during one of those trainings organized in the scope of the Eco-school process. We presented them our project and tried to understand their educational expectations on the energy subject.

Mauritians do talk about the “Green Flag” and not the “Drapeau Vert” even in french. Apart from this particular case, they have no problem in mixing the languages in general! Here we speak english (the official language in which classes are for example), creole, french and indian and chinese languages. Even when the discussion is in french, english words often pop into it like “sorry”, “ok right”, “bye”. In fact, there are many ethnic groups in Mauritius, coming from the history of the country between colonization and immigration waves : indian, creole, chinese, etc. Those groups actually do not mix together at all, or very few, and we still find very visible cultural and religious differences everywhere, which creates highly cosmopolitan and interesting cities for such a small island!

Our animations in schools were really enriching for us, on every level. We went into more than 15 schools to meet children from 8 to 18 years old and discuss with them on various energy challenges. For the youngests, our activity focused on how the electricity is made in Mauritius and what a difference it makes depending on the primary energy source used to make it. It allows them to experiment and become aware of the advantages and drawbacks of each source of energy.

Visiting the wind turbines in Plaine-des-Roches

Visiting the Coal/Bagasse mix thermal power plant of Omnicane

To sum up the energy context of the island, electricity is produced from 80% of fossil fuels (petrol and coal) and 20% of renewable energy sources (14% of bagasse, 5% of hydraulic power and 1% of solar and wind energies combined). Bagasse is quite an interesting specificity here, it is what remains of the crushed sugar canes after extracting the sugar and it can be burnt to produce energy in the coal plants. So when the sugar cane season comes, bagasse replaces coal to produce electricity. The sugar factories found a way of diversification of their activities and became energy actors. But the sugar cane surfaces have been decreasing for years now due to the low price of sugar that doesn’t allow the activity to be viable anymore, let alone the extending economic pressure on the lands due to the ever growing tourism on the island. We can then wonder what the future of those coal/bagasse plants will be…

Visiting the inlands and an energy and water autonomous home

With the olders we chose to tackle the issue of energy transition in our activity while adressing it through the subject of transportation which is a great challenge here (like in many other countries) : it represents 50% of the petrol consumed and therefore imported. Through a revisited version of the sparrowhawk game, we brought them to different discussions on the phenomenons of change inertia, on the impact of our behaviours, on the challenges of our transportation systems and the use of energy in general in our daily lives and at the planet’s scale, on the impacts of climate change, etc. Our testimony, supported by photos and videos of our tour of France with a solar bike at least let them dream and, hopefully, motivated them to become actors of the transition too!

Most of the secondary schools are not mixed (on the left a girl’s school ; on the right a boy’s school)

Our activities and our testimony of what we did in France were both well received by the students and the teachers. They motivate us to keep pushing the concept further and we are thinking about new games to create for our animations on the next islands.

And considering our materiel… Well, after a little trip from Moroni to Johannesburg and 3 weeks waiting there, our dear friends in charge of the freight transport realized they hadn’t correctly read the LTA (the decriptive sheet of the material to transport) and that they weren’t able to pursue the delivery to Mauritius. All that means that at the moment we have finished our animations in Mauritius and we are almost on our way to Madagascar, our material is going back… to the Comoros! 😀 No need to say we are really happy about that… So we are heading for the next step without counting on that and ready to create new activities! 🙂

See you again for our next adventures in the Indian Ocean 😉


SolaR’hythm Team