Reunion: Plaine des Cafres in a Nutshell

Reunion

Plaine des Cafres is a village in the commune of Le Tampon. It is located in the north-east of the town of Le Tampon, on National Road 3 just after the village Saint-Benoît.

Plaine des Cafres is indeed a village but it is also the appellation of the higher plateau of Reunion Island, which is located between the Piton des Neiges massif and that of Piton de la Fournaise. This plateau is separated from the Plaine des Palmistes by the Bellevue Pass, which culminates at 1,630 meters above sea level. To the west, it overlooks the enclosed valley formed by the Bras de la Plaine and its tributary, the Bras de Sainte-Suzanne. To the east, it dominates the one dug by a tributary of the Riviere des Remparts. To the south, it opens on the rest of the municipality which is much more urbanized.

Plaine des Cafres is a region which is rich in crops and pastures thanks of course to a very fertile soil and a cool and humid climate. In addition to the geranium that grows up to 1,200 meters of altitude on the side of Notre Dame de la Paix and Grand and Petit Tampon, crops grown are mainly potatoes and some early fruits. Livestock farming has become an important resource; most of the cattle raised in Reunion Island are at Plaine des Cafres, which is the center of milk production on the island. The good air of Plaine des Cafres attracts many families during the holidays and throughout the year. It is also the stopping point of tourists before ascending the Piton de la Fournaise.

History of Plaine des Cafres

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Bory de Saint-Vincent gave in 1801 an explanation on the name Plaine des Cafres:

“The name of Plaine des Caffres normally comes from a large band of black slaves who inhabited it and who often descended to plunder dwellings by the ravine that still bears their name.”

Plaine des Cafres takes its name from one of the oldest ethnic groups on the island. The “Caffres” are Africans imported as slaves, originating from the present Mozambique and surroundings. But today, “Cafre” refers to the whole black population of Reunion. The “Caf Caf” on 20 December is the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Reunion Island.

When it came to colonizing the plains in 1851, the Administration distributed concessions to the Plaine des Cafres in order to develop livestock. These regions, however, were not favoured by those who sought land to settle. For 110 concessions to be given, there were only 43 petitioners, among whom P. Reilhac, Forgel Hoarau, Roussel, Toussaint Hoarau, Armanet and Bois Joli Pottier, who were pioneers of the plain, explained the reasons for this lack of eagerness.

1860: Plaine des Cafres has become in recent years, the country of the cultures and the breeding of the Livestock. It makes cheese, butter as in Switzerland or in Normandy and in the middle of its green meadows one can drink its milk. Its vegetables and especially its potatoes are of the finest qualities “.

The newcomers were mainly interested in animal rearing. Herds of oxen, mules, sheep and horses were spread over the territory between Bois Court and Piton Bleu, La Rivière de l’Est and Notre Dame de la Paix, which were accessible only by foot until 1920. The breeding of Horses and mules were successfully performed for a few years, especially that of racehorses, some of which have remained famous: Verdun, Zélie. It was at Plaine des Cafres that all the mules of the island were born, which rendered so many services for the carriages. Until the last war it was customary to see convoys of mules going down from the plain to the factories and all the settlements on the coast.

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Around 1884, Bois Joli Pottier was interested in researching new crops for Réunion Island, and particularly perfume plants and geranium. He made trials of distillation of this fragrant plant, his descendants told how the whole family participated, supervising, 24 hours a day, the still, helping to the discovery that was to open Réunion Island in an era of prosperity.

Bois Joli himself abandoned his pastures and fields from the higher places which gave him so much trouble to plant geranium in the lower parts of his estates. He installed a large still, where now is the Church of Plaine des Cafres. At his example, everyone abandoned their crops and livestock for geranium.

The region was attached to Saint-Pierre by a decree of 13 June 1873, since 1920, it forms part of the commune of Tampon.The production of geranium Rosat prospered in the past but kept constantly decreasing as the years passed. Thus Plaine des Cafres returned mainly to the breeding and the agriculture.Local Show at La Plaine des Cafres.Every January, Plaine des Cafres organizes an agricultural fair called Miel Vert (Green Honey). The first edition of this great festival of agriculture dates back to1983. It was organized in the 23rd km of Plaine-des-Cafres. A festival with many exhibitors of animals, cattle, goats, rabbits, poultry, pigs, rabbits, horses… Every year, Green Honey designates its queen. The election of Miss Plaine-des-Cafres.

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