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We are working with coastal communities and private sector partners to develop economically lucrative, environmentally sustainable and socially viable alternatives to fishing. Our aquaculture initiative is providing coastal communities in southwest Madagascar with new sources of income while alleviating pressure on marine resources and improving food security.

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A need for alternatives to fishing

Coastal communities across much of the Indian Ocean depend on healthy marine resources for food, income and cultural identity. However, marine ecosystems are being degraded at unprecedented rates and there is an urgent need to diversify coastal livelihoods towards more environmentally sustainable practices.

Communities in the Velondriake area of southwest Madagascar are especially reliant on the sea for their livelihoods, with 87% of adults engaged in fishing or gleaning, and limited opportunities for agriculture or other income-generating activities due to the region's arid climate and isolation.

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Farming the sea

Blue Ventures is connecting communities with international markets and supporting them to develop sustainable aquaculture enterprises, supported by Norgesvel and in close partnership with the University of Toliara's Institute of Fishery and Marine Science (IHSM), local seafood exporter Copefrito and aquaculture company Indian Ocean Trepang (IOT). As a result of this initiative, hundreds of farming teams in Velondriake are now rearing sea cucumbers (Holothuria scabra) and growing red "cottonii" seaweed (Kappaphycus alvarezii) for international export.

Juvenile sea cucumbers are raised according to novel techniques within a local hatchery managed by the IHSM and IOT, then delivered to communities to be grown out in lagoonal enclosures with technical guidance from Blue Ventures. Once the holothurians reach commercial size, they can be harvested for sale to Copefrito, then processed and exported to Asian markets where they are a highly valuable delicacy. Red seaweed is propagated and grown along hundreds of meters of line by communities before being harvested, dried and sold to Copefrito. It is widely produced in the Indo Pacific region to extract carrageenans, which is used as a texturing agent in food production and cosmetics.

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There are currently more than 40 sea cucumber and 200 seaweed farming teams active in the Velondriake area, representing more than 700 people. Trials for expansion are also underway in the Belo sur Mer area, further north along Madagascar's southwest coast. Farmers not only receive training in aquaculture techniques but also business management skills, with support from CITE, so that profits generated can be reinvested wisely and their farms sustained.

Sea cucumber aquaculture video produced by Jon Slayer and a junior reporter (local youth trained as a citizen journalist) a few years after the project first started in the village of Tampolove

Supporting conservation and empowering women

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These aquaculture initiatives are providing coastal communities with new economic opportunities, increasing their capacity for sustainable marine resource management, and building support for locally led conservation efforts.

In addition to offering a lucrative and culturally acceptable alternative to fishing, seaweed and sea cucumber farming are also promoting women's engagement in the coastal economy. Women account for more than 50% of farming team members, and report being able to use their income to pay their children's school fees and supplement their family's diet.

Sharing lessons learned

Introducing new and alternative livelihoods to communities is not a simple task, often requiring collaborating with a variety of partners all contributing different expertise. The private sector nature of many aquaculture initiatives means that results and developments are generally not publicised; experiences of overcoming technical, logistical and financial challenges are rarely shared at a regional or international level.

In order to exchange lessons learned and best practices, Blue Ventures:

  • has produced a sea cucumber farming handbook with the support of ReCoMap.
  • is working to establish a stakeholder platform for aquaculture in southwest Madagascar that convenes quarterly.
  • hosted a landmark workshop on community-based aquaculture initiatives in the Western Indian Ocean region, in partnership with the University of Dar es Salaam in December 2013. 
  • is a member and supporting partner of the informal regional network, Community Based Aquaculture in the WIO.
  • for a map showing locations of community based aquaculture initiatives in the WIO please click here

Community based aquaculture in the western Indian Ocean: Challenges faced and lessons learned. In this short film by Brian Jones, participants from the regional workshop talk about their community based aquaculture (CBA) experiences, and what the workshop means for the future of CBA in the WIO.

Aquaculture publications