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A need to diversify

Traditional small-scale fisheries are fundamental to the livelihoods and food security of some the planet's poorest communities. Yet marine ecosystems and the fisheries they support are facing unprecedented pressures. With soaring demand for seafood, and 75% of global fish stocks already overexploited or fully exploited, there is a critical need to diversify coastal livelihoods to reduce pressure on resources. 

92% of Madagascar’s population lives on less than US$2 per day. For coastal communities, severe poverty, geographic isolation, and in many areas an arid climate means there are few economic opportunities beyond fishing and coastal people are highly reliant on the sea for their survival. 

Farming the sea

As part of our integrated approach to marine conservation and development, we work with coastal communities and private sector aquaculture businesses in Madagascar to develop viable livelihood activities appropriate to the local environment and culture.

Our community-based aquaculture initiative is providing coastal people with new sources of income, allowing improved access to food and education, while alleviating pressure on fisheries and marine biodiversity.

Working with the University of Toliara's marine science institute (IHSM), local seafood exporter Copefrito and aquaculture company Indian Ocean Trepang (IOT), we are connecting isolated coastal communities with lucrative international markets for seaweed and sea cucumbers, enabling families to develop their own aquaculture businesses.

Sea cucumber video produced a few years after the programme first started in the village of Tampolove

Our aquaculture specialists have trained over 700 people to become farmers of sea cucumbers (Holothuria scabra) and red "cottonii" seaweed (Kappaphycus alvarezii). Sea cucumbers (known as trepang after processing) are in high demand in Asian markets where they are considered a delicacy, health food and aphrodisiac, while red seaweed is widely used in food and cosmetics industries as a texturing agent.

Why seaweed and sea cucumbers?

  • Well suited to Madagascar’s extensive shallow coastal lagoons
  • High demand from lucrative international markets
  • Farms operate with low running costs
  • Production methods are simple, requiring minimal initial training, and producing negligible adverse environmental impacts
  • An established network of business and research partners provides assured access to markets, hatchery technology and supply, and technical expertise to maximise the benefits to communities

Catalysing local entrepreneurship

We are committed to developing models for community-based aquaculture in which farms are fully owned and operated by communities themselves. Our aquaculture teams provide materials, technical guidance and assist with start-up costs, while our training programmes help to build the technical, financial and managerial skills needed by fishermen and women to manage their own aquaculture businesses. 

We also help nurture new partnerships between farmers and seafood exporters, microfinance institutions, development funds and business training organisations. This business management support is fundamental to improving revenues and working towards the long-term sustainability of aquaculture businesses in these isolated communities.

Our impact

Every year new farmers and villages join our aquaculture programme, increasing the number of people benefiting from alternative livelihoods. Over half of the farmers supported by Blue Ventures are women, who are able to use this new income to help pay for children's school fees and supplement their family's diet.

Seaweed A4 infographic     SeaCucumbers A4 infographic

Scaling success

Introducing new innovations in coastal aquaculture is not a simple task, and requires strong technical partnerships and practical experience. The commercial nature of many aquaculture businesses means that results and developments are generally not publicised; experiences of overcoming technical, logistical and financial challenges in production are rarely shared.

innovation thumb

We are committed to promoting and sharing best practice in community-based aquaculture, maximising the number of people able to benefit from these livelihood activities. We are working to improve networking among aquaculture initiatives, developing a new Indian Ocean network for practitioners, as well as tools such as technical handbooks for sea cucumber farmers.

Video about the regional workshop for community-based aquaculture in the western Indian Ocean region
co-organised by Blue Ventures in December 2013 in Zanzibar



Aquaculture thumb CBA in WIO
Rougier-et-al 13-1
Community-based aquaculture factsheet Community-based aquaculture in the western Indian Ocean: challenges faced and lessons learned Strategies for improving survivorship of hatchery-reared juvenile Holothuria scabra in community-managed sea cucumber farms

Handbook sandfish sea cucumber farming English-1  
 From hatchery to community: Madagacar's first village-based holothurian mariculture programme
Handbook for sandfish (sea cucumber) farming