Juniors’ Classroom Exchange

The Junior Reef Doctors programme has been going extremely well since it began in 2014. The Juniors learn about marine ecosystems and conservation, and we hope that as they grow into adults they will use their knowledge of how to care for the environment and sustainable living to teach following generations.

Our nearest NGO neighbour, Honko, has also recently begun their own Juniors programme with the aim of educating children in the area about the importance of mangrove forests. Their programme is also going very well and the Junior Reef Doctors and our staff got to see how well on Saturday when the Honko Juniors and staff visited us.

The Honko Juniors made some great posters about the mangrove ecosystem, the utility of mangroves in every day life and how to protect this resource, which they used to make a really fun and informative presentation to our Juniors class on Saturday. They then attended a lesson with the  Juniors Reef Doctor on threats to the environment. Of course, there were games and snacks for everyone afterwards!

We look forward to more classroom exchanges and presentations with Honko and other NGOs in the future with the aim of teaching children about different elements and aspects of conservation. We hope that a holistic approach to conservation will become a part of every day life for these children and will help to prepare them for a time when they are making the decisions in their community and how those decisions will affect their environment.

Report by RD Comms officer Ivana Rubino

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Junior Reef Doctors Picnic Treat

We’ve had such a busy week at ReefDoctor there is barely enough time to tell you about everything that’s been going on. We’ve filled you in on our hugely successful second annual MPA relay and the latest aquaculture news, and now we get a chance to brag about our wonderful ReefDoctor Juniors again!

The Juniors entertained everyone at our MPA relay with songs about conservation, littering and the environment. They were fantastic and everyone really loved the songs, specially written for them by our very own, very talented volunteer coordinator Rinah. The next day the Juniors should have been attending classes and learning even more about the environment but they have reached the end of the current curriculum and deserved a treat for all their hard work in class and at the MPA relay. So, instead of heading to the classroom on Saturday we took the Juniors for a picnic.

At 8am 28 Juniors together with Rinah and Apo who organized the day, Tom, Candice, Marco, Oriana, Viv, Mary and Iva set off laden with food, snacks, far too many fizzy drinks and a big bag full of masks for snorkeling. The younger children are just a little too small still to go snorkeling so while we divided the older children into groups, games of football and tag were played on the beach. The older children were given a mask each and groups took to the water to see what could be seen. The tide was low, which was perfect for the Juniors because they could stay in shallow water and still get to see what was on the seabed. It was a lot of fun and the Juniors saw seagrass, sponges, nudibranch eggs, various types of snails and shells, some coral fragments and lots of starfish.

We had another little surprise in store while everyone was playing and snorkeling. RD Comms leader Viv had the great idea of bringing a Polaroid camera from the UK to take photos of the Juniors, and we brought it to the picnic. Everyone posed in and out of the water. None of the ReefDoctor team had seen a Polaroid camera in years and we were just as excited as the children when the pictures popped out! We don’t often get the chance to print photographs so it was great to have a physical picture to show the children. All the photographs are going to be made into a collage to hang in the ReefDoctor classroom so the Juniors can see them whenever they want.

Once everyone had a turn it was time for the picnic. A huge picnic blanket was made out of everyone’s lamba (sarongs) and the children feasted on misao (a pasta and vegetable dish), Sambosa (the Gasy name for samosa made from fish or potato), caca pigeon (the best fried dough snack ever made!), fizzy drinks and lollipops. The children were a little hyperactive after all the sugar but who doesn’t enjoy a fizzy drink fuelled frenzy every once in a while? It was a treat they definitely deserved.

Story by RD Comms Officer Ivana Rubino

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March Seaweed & Sea Cucumber Sales

Seaweed and sea cucumber sales are now taking place monthly in the Bay of Ranobe and the results are impressive. In the village of Betsibaroke, seaweed farmers had their first sale, and sold a whopping 2,402 kg of dried seaweed.  Together with the villages of Ifaty, Mangily and Ambolomailaky, over 5,000 kg of seaweed was harvested and sold in March.  For the sea cucumber farming villages of Andrevo and Ambolomailaky, almost 1,600 sea cucumbers were sold over two nights.  Combined, our Darwin Initiative funded alternative livelihoods project injected 3,073 USD (9,635,500 MGA) into the economies of these villages.

With such large scale success across the bay of Ranobe, it is sometimes easy to forget the impact that this project is
having at smaller scales.  With this in mind, we explored how alternative livelihood activities are reducing vulnerability and enhancing well-being in the Bay.  Ivana Rubino spoke with households engaged in seaweed and sea cucumber farming about their experiences, and we will be sharing these insights with you in the months to come.  The first account is of seaweed farmer Ferolle and his wife Vola.


Ferolle (33) and Vola (30)

Village: Ifaty

Occupation: Seaweed farmer and turtle fisher

“When I only relies on fishing I could come home with no fish,” Ferolle says.  “Life is easier now and is less tiring. Fishing is tiring but that is now a second activity after seaweed farming”.  Ferolle is a big man, and it easy to imagine him rowing his lakana (ocean-going pirogue) out of the Bay to find the big fish in the Mozambique Channel, or hauling in his large fishing nets.  He does not look like the sort of person to tire easily, and his comments speak more to the difficulty of fishing as a livelihood, than his personal stamina.  “I still fish three afternoons a week, (but) I am no longer worried about finding food.  I can always expect to get something at the end of the (seaweed) growing cycle”.

Ferolle and Vola have been farming seaweed since early 2015.  Ferolle grows the seaweed in the water while Vola dries the seaweed and takes care of the operation on land.  Their success at seaweed farming has allowed Ferolle to expand his experiences and he has received further training as a community seaweed technician.

“I always enjoyed seaweed farming, but being a technician is very cool”, he says.

As a community technician, Ferolle assists villagers that want to start farming seaweed.  He teaches them how to manage their seaweed ropes to grow the best seaweed, and how to solve any problems that might arise.  “I had the opportunity to learn, and now I have the opportunity to teach others”.

It is clear that Ferolle and Vola’s involvement in seaweed farming is improving their quality of life.  “Our extra IMG_2787 copyincome depends on what we produce every month but with the money we have made we can make provisions that we could not make before. We have more time and more money and can take care of our family better.  Things I didn’t have before or couldn’t afford, I now can have.”

For Ferolle, part of reason he enjoys seaweed farming is that culturally, it is similar to fishing.  “It is good to be able to combine farming and fishing.  The seaweed project could have been started a long time ago”, he says.  Ferolle identifies with the Vezo people of southwest Madagascar – those who make their livelihoods from the ocean.  The sea and fishing are integral parts of Vezo culture, and form their group identity.  “It fits with the Vezo lifestyle because it is not taking away part of being Vezo. It suits Vezo life”.  Ferolle and Vola’s success in seaweed farming is largely dependent on how well it conforms to the local culture.  “I enjoy it as a Vezo man”.

Story by Head of Aquaculture Cale Goulding & Interview by RD Comms Officer Ivana Rubino

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MPA Relay Race Update

The stretch of beach in front of the ReefDoctor camp was bustling with activity as the 2nd Annual MPA (Marine Protected Area) Relay Race got underway on Friday, April 15. Teams from Mangily, Ifaty, and ReefDoctor competed in a 5-kilometer swimming race to Rose Garden, the first official marine protected area in the Bay of Ranobe. The ReefDoctor team was comprised of our Dive Officer Mikael Popov, Aquaculture Project Manager Cale Golding, Divemaster Intern Katie Riley, and volunteers Aletta Leitch, Taylah Savins, and Connor Valentine. Rescue divers Mattieu de Villiers, Izzy Sweeting, and Ivana Rubino were also on hand to ensure the swimmers’ safety in the water. The Mangily team was comprised of Francisco, Decko, Pele, Dauphin, Christophe, Delphin, and Marco, while the participants from Ifaty were Clemant, Baroky, Bruly, Odon, Tsinihy, Dona, and Koda. The race started just before 9 AM, with a large crowd of villagers and children from Ifaty already assembled in front of the ReefDoctor camp to cheer the swimmers on.

The race was extremely close, but the Mangily team pulled ahead early and maintained their lead throughout, finishing with a time of 1 hour 4 minutes. The Ifaty and ReefDoctor teams remained locked in a dead heat during the race, with the Ifaty team maintaining a constant 50 meter lead until the very end, when ReefDoctor sped up to close the gap to about 15 meters. As the final swimmers raced up the beach to touch the door of the school, the Ifaty team managed to pull ahead by several seconds, although both teams finished with a time of 1 hour 12 minutes. This was a noted improvement for the ReefDoctor team, which finished about a half hour after the Ifaty team during the first year!

In typical Madagascar fashion (where nothing goes according to plan) the race itself was eventful, with one swimmer on both the Ifaty and ReefDoctor team becoming sick, creating an even closer race between the boats with only 5 swimmers apiece. The MPA is also a snorkeling destination for tourists and Friday was no exception, as swimmers narrowly dodged three pirogues full of vazahas (foreigners) sailing through the race path. Meanwhile, spectators on the beach played volleyball, Tug-of-War, and ate sambosa while the teams were racing. Shortly after the start of the race, the women’s association from Ifaty joined the festivities and got everyone up and dancing to the music. Jivan, our community aquaculture technician, kept the crowd informed on the teams’ progression as the rescue divers radioed back updates from the boats. The bubbly atmosphere on the beach was infectious as the swimmers arrived, with throngs of children cheering them up the beach.

After the race ended, the winning goat was presented to the Mangily team as they were congratulated on becoming the new reigning champions of the relay race. The crowd was then treated to a presentation by our own ReefDoctor Juniors, during which the children dressed in traditional lambas (sarongs) and performed several original songs about marine conservation and protecting the ocean that were written by community education officer Rinah Badi. The festivities continued throughout the day, with a volleyball tournament between ReefDoctor and Ifaty teams taking place later that afternoon. After Ifaty narrowly won the goat over the ReefDoctor team, they ran through the streets of Ifaty (goat on hand) while their neighbors cheered them on. The Mangily team was given a warm reception upon returning home as well, as locals lined the street to congratulate them on their win.

The beach party, close win, and the addition of a new team from Mangily all work to ensure that next year’s relay will be even bigger and better than this one. As you may know, the MPA relay race was initiated last year to raise funds for the construction of a new on-site schoolhouse after it suffered heavy damage from cyclone activity. This year, we set our sights even higher, aiming to build Ifaty’s first public library. By the time the event was held, we had already raised an incredible £1,016 on the fundraising page, thanks to 20 individual donors as well as a very generous anonymous donation of £500! This amount totally exceeded expectations and will make the construction of a proper library, which will provide innumerable benefits to the local population. Updates on this project will appear here as they materialize, so watch this space! In addition, the fundraiser will be running for another 3 weeks, so if you would still like to contribute please visit http://fnd.us/716rX4! Every donation big or small is gratefully appreciated by ReefDoctor and the community of Ifaty. Thank you to everyone who made this success possible!!

Story by event organiser Katie Riley

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Mangrove Planting Day

After a week of cool weather, Saturday 9th April was a beautiful sunny day. Perfect for a spot of gardening. But why just do a little gardening or plant one tree when you can do a lot of gardening and plant 43,000 trees! That’s exactly what members of the community of the region of Belalanda, a number of NGOs based in the area, government officials from the Department of Industry and the Ministry of Fisheries together with the Mayor of Belalanda did.

The annual event, organized by the Regional Office of the Ministry of Fisheries in Toliara, took place in the village of Ambotsibotiske and an estimated 200 people attended. The NGO working to protect and plant mangroves in the area: Honko, and the local association VOI Mamelo Honko hosted the event.

The ReefDoctor team arrived smothered in mosquito repellent and sunscreen, ready to help plant three different varieties of mangrove propagules. Proagules are the seeds of the mangrove tree and are germinated while still attached to the mother plant. When the seed or proagule matures it falls and either becomes embedded in the soil or is dispersed by the tide. Planting proagules was a lot easier than expected, as they merely need to be placed the right way up in the soil, roughly one meter apart. Mangrove trees produce so many propagules that the easiest and best way to plant them, on an occasion like this, is to embed large numbers of propagules in suitable conditions and hope for the best. The success of this planting method and previous planting days could be seen in the replanted areas we passed through on the way to the sandbank we were replanting. It is also an excellent opportunity for people from many different sectors of the community to come together with a common purpose every year.

This year, the large crowd gathered near the sandbank in Ambotsibotske and listened to speeches and a short tutorial on how to plant the propagules, as they waited for the tide to go out. Once the water levels were low enough everyone crossed the river to get to the sandbank where 43,000 red, black and yellow mangrove propagules awaited. People filled bags and sarongs and carried armfuls of propagules, which were collected by Honko staff and volunteers and VOI Mamelo Honko, into the area to be planted, and got to work. There are six common species of mangrove. Planting focused on three species. Red mangroves (Rhizophora mucronata), easily identified by their arching props and aerial roots, are used locally for charcoal production. The large aerial roots provide an excellent nesting and refuge area for birds and marine animals. Yellow mangroves (Ceriops tagal) are one of the best charcoal sources and are used extensively for cooking fires. Known locally as Tanga; meaning single foot, the yellow mangrove has a buttressed base. Its durable wood is also used locally for construction poles. The bark is used for tanning and dyeing. Black mangroves (Bruguiera gymnorhiza) have roughly fissured grey- black bark and distinctive knobbly bent knee-shaped roots. Locally there is no distinction between yellow and black mangroves as they both have a single foot trunk and hard wood used for firewood and tanning fishing nets.

Honko has been operating in the area since 2007 and has successfully replanted and protected a large area of mangroves but due to the importance of mangroves both ecologically and economically this is an ongoing process. Madagascar has the third largest mangrove stands in Africa but on average 3000 hectares are lost every year (FAO 2005) to development and over exploitation.

Four hectares of mangroves were planted on Saturday 9th April. It is a small portion of the 3000 lost annually but a considerable amount of planting in just one day. Members of the community took part in rejuvenating and protecting their natural resources and volunteers from the various NGOs get to finish their volunteer experience knowing that they planted a tiny piece of Madagascar that will, hopefully, thrive for years to come.



Story by RD Comms Officer Ivana Rubino




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