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Seaweed farming grows in the Bay of Ranobe

RDarwin Initiative logoeefDoctors Darwin Initiative community managed aquaculture project continues to grow in the Bay of Ranobe, with seaweed farmers in Mangily celebrating their very first sale on the 2nd September 2015.

Combined, the farmers sold over 600 kilograms of the red seaweed known commercially as cottonii, to be exported for industrial uses. For the farmers, this sale was a much anticipated event, and is serving as motivation to increase their energies in this activity. Now that the community has realised the benefits of farming seaweed, they are determined to increase their harvest next time.

For the neighbouring village of Ifaty, these benefits are well recognised, and for their third sale, they produced over a ton of seaweed, worth more than half a million ariary. While Reef Doctor provided all the necessary start-up materials, farmers are now investing the money they made from the sale into more materials to expand their farms.

In addition, other villages in the bay are also getting involved. So far, just in the first week of September, over 50 households from the villages of Amboakboaky and Ambolomailkay, asked to be involved in Reef Doctor’s alternative
livelihoods project. These communities are receiving training and will commence the farming process shortly.

Mangily seaweed farmers and family with their first seaweed sold and ready to go

Mangily seaweed farmers and family with their first seaweed sold and ready to go




Darwin Initiative logo

Aquaculture in August 2015:

Updates to ReefDoctors Darwin Initiative aquaculture projects key work in August;

August 4th: 5,000 juvenile sea cucumbers stocked in nursery pens in Andrevo, at a cost of 1,840,000ar.

August 25th: The first seaweed training program is introduced to Mangily. 26th 10 households from Amboaboaky are introduced to their community as seaweed farmers – the first in this village.

August 28th: ReefDoctor conducts a meeting in Ambolomailaky to begin the seaweed farming process.

August 31st: 26 marine turtles released in August.

6 seaweed farmers from Ifaty successfully completed their seaweed training program in August.

In addition the team completed installation of yellow marker buoys for the seaweed farms in Mangily, and conducted extensive communications with dive schools, hotels and external stakeholders in Mangily and nearby villages to raise awareness of the Mangily village seaweed project and minimise boat traffic interference.

Following the successful completion of their seaweed training program with ReefDoctor, seaweed farmers from Ifaty were introduced to new farmers in Amboaboaky and Ambolomailaky. These community technicians will provide training and assistance to new farmers in expansion villages.

In mid-August delegates from FRDA (Fonds Régional de Développement Agricole a government ministry for agriculture development) inspected sea cucumber pens in Ambolomailaky and discussed with farmers and ReefDoctor the potential to provide funding for further projects.




Darwin Initiative logoReefDoctor’s Darwin Initiative alternative livelihoods project continues to grow, with the seaweed farmers of Ifaty celebrating their second harvest in July. Together, the farmers sold almost 900 kg of dried seaweed. Despite reduced growth rates due to cooler winter water temperatures, a number of farmers increased their level of production from their first sale, highlighting their commitment to this activity. In fact, since their last harvest, ReefDoctor helped farmers to double their capacity to process seaweed, as the farmers were growing more than they could process.
The second sale allowed farmers to appreciate the kind of regular income they can generate from farming seaweed. And it is beginning to make a difference. As one farmer said, he can supplement his income, improve his way of living and be more comfortable. “I used to dive for fish in the morning and afternoon, but now I only dive in the morning”, he said. By reducing the economic incentive to fish, there is less pressure on the ecosystem, and fish stocks have the chance to recover. A win-win situation for the people of Ifaty, and the coral reef.

Farmers having their dried seaweed weighed

Farmers having their dried seaweed weighed



















Darwin Initiative logoReefDoctors Darwin Initative Seaweed Farmers Celebrate their First Sale.

In the Bay of Ranobe, Southwest Madagascar, fishing is more than just a way of life – it is life. There are few formal employment opportunities, and subsistence fishing allows the people to get by on $0.7 – 1.4 USD per day, well below the WHO poverty line of $2 USD. But with approximately 20,000 people all trying to catch the same fish, catches are steadily declining. And when the weather is bad, the villagers often don’t catch anything. ReefDoctor’s alternative livelihoods project, with assistance from the Darwin Initiative, is helping the men and women in the Bay of Ranobe to generate sustainable, reliable incomes, utilising the productive potential of the ocean, rather than over exploiting it.
The red seaweed Kappaphycus Alvarezii is grown for a component called carrageenan, which is used as a binder and stabiliser all over the world in products such as toothpaste, soaps, pharmaceuticals, skin creams, ice cream, pasta, and sauces. ReefDoctor first introduced the concept of seaweed farming to the village of Ifaty, providing start-up materials, access to markets, and ongoing training and support, and in July the farmers sold their first batch of seaweed.
Some farmers sold over 200 kg of seaweed, generating more than 100,000 ariary, the equivalent of $31 USD. While this may not seem like much, for one of the poorest regions of one of the poorest countries in the world, this is a windfall, and can be enough to lift them above the poverty line. And now that farmers have experienced the benefits, they are determined to produce more seaweed for their next sale.

Ifaty farmers with first seaweed sold and ready to be exported

Ifaty farmers with first seaweed sold and ready to be exported



















FANO Project Update – December 2014:

ReefDcotor Fano project, together with the local turtle protection association (FI.MPA.MI.FA), and Kelonia marine turtle observatory in Reunion implemented the Ranobe turtle tagging program in October, 2013. This program aims to reinforce the indigenous law ‘dina’ protecting juvenile marine turtles (<70cm) captured in the fishery. In the early stages of the program, only a few turtles were tagged due to difficulties ensuing from wariness by fishers to participate in the program. To address this issue ReefDoctor and FI.MPA.MI.FA developed a community awareness campaign for the 13 villages of the Bay of Ranobe. This resulted in mounting support for the program and over 95 turtles tagged and released since July 2014 (fig 1).

MarineTurtleTaggingProgram_statistics_dec14In 2015, we aim to increase community participation in the tagging and release program, conserving marine turtle habitats and protecting marine turtles captured in the fishery.

 Please watch our work in-progress @


ReefDoctor attends the 17th Reef Conservation UK conference 2014:

On the 6th Decemeber 2014, ReefDoctor attended the 17th annual Reef Conservation UK conference held at the Zoological Society of London. The conference was attended by over 100 international scientists from a range of marine organisations and universities from across the UK and internationally.

Rod_CoralConverence-14-UKReefDoctor’s director Roderick Stein-Rostaing presented a poster on the coral gardening and restoration pilot project being conducted in the Bay of Ranobe SW Madagascar, the first of such work to be carried out by an NGO in Madagascar.

The pilot project has been successful to date, with over 150 corals colonies grown (from unconsolidated coral fragments recovered from seagrass beds) on coral nursery structures in the ‘Rose Garden’, locally managed marine area (LMMA). These colonies have since been successfully transplanted onto degraded areas within the LMMA to assist in the restoration of the site which has been impacted by a series of bleaching and disease events. Mortality rates of the transplants to date have, encouraging, been very low at 7%.

Over 200 new coral fragments have been placed into the nursery this year to be grown up into viable colonies for transplantation in 2015; both to continue restoring degraded areas in the Rose Garden and also for the restoration of other degraded reef sites within the Bay of Ranobe. There are also plans in 2015 to set up additional coral nursery in another LMMA in the Bay, ‘Ankanranjalita’, in order to increase the number of corals grown for transplantation.

Coral table with coral frags 2It is hoped that both coral gardening projects will encourage tourists to continue visiting these LMMA sites, which are important for generating operational income for the Bay of Ranobe’s fishermen’s association FIMIHARA and an alternative livelihood income for fishermen e.g. using their boats to take tourists out to visit these LMMAs.

The project was initiated in 2012 by senior science officer Marine Gouezo and the work has been continued by successive science officers, Lucy Fisher and Beth Greenwood. We would like to take this opportunity to send a huge thank you to all of the science officers involved in the project and to the volunteers and staff who helped maintain the coral nurseries and undertake the transplantation work.

Please click on the following links for further information on the project and RCUK conference.

ReefDoctor RCUK Poster

RCUK list of attendees

RCUK Abstracts



 Opening of the Repaired Ifaty school:

On the 22nd of February 2013 cyclone Haruna, registered as a scale 2 storm when it struck land of the Toliara region south-west Madagascar. Intense winds destroyed infrastructure, caused mass flooding that washed away roads and crops. The local primary school (and others) of Ifaty suffered extensive damage to the roof of the main buildings and food store room and the complete destruction of the kitchen and dining room.

This not only left vulnerable children without a place to learn but it also affected their eligibility for a free meal funded by the World Food Program. This is a vital funding scheme aimed at assisting Malagasy families in sending their children to primary school, though each school must first have a functioning kitchen, dining and food store room before receiving the food aid. Since 2003 ReefDoctor has been helping the Ifaty school gain this food aid by building them a functioning dining room, kitchen and alongside Rotary Club Tricastin a food storeroom and keeping it running and working.

After the cyclone staff reached out to the ReefDoctor network, friends and family across the globe launching the fundraising appeal “MadaKids”, its aim to provide a safe environment for the continued education of the children of Ifaty.

Within a few months MadaKids had received an amazing £3900 from many generous donors, with a total of £3767 going directly to the project after paypal and bank transfer fees.

Community support for the project was inspiring with every single family in the village providing either labour and/or locally sourced materials with four qualified person from the village supervising the building work.  The funds generated allowed for the hiring of professional builders and expensive imported materials creating stronger more permanent structures then before with regards to the kitchen and dining room plus new tin roof for the main buildings and store room.

The construction and repair work was completed in the beginning of September just in time for the new school year. To mark this momentous event for the village and children we held an opening ceremony which was attended by parents and children, village heads and leaders, Major of the region, ministry of education delegates, ReefDoctor staff and the national Malagasy media.

It was a great day and the broadcasted event on Malagasy TV can be seen here;

30 minute version

5 minute version

Some of the funds still remain which will be put towards new tables, chairs and cooking utensils for the school or added towards the JULIE GHOSH Memorial scholarship, an environmental education scholarship programme to start in 2014.

Once again, we would like to thank everyone who donated to this worthwhile cause, you made this project possible and made an immeasurable difference to the lives of the children of Ifaty,

Thank You and MISAOTROA !

 FANO Project Update – March 2013:

Integrating community development with the conservation of culture and traditions: the FANO project is delighted to report on the successful implementation of the traditional social agreement (dina) for the 13 communities of the Bay of Ranobe.













This has been accomplished through the hard work of FANO project staff and FI.PA.MI.FA association members (above). Over the next few months, the FANO project will be assessing the long-term motivation of communities to conserve their common marine turtle resources.


Turtles without boarders: the FANO project has been working together with RAKOTONIRINA Bertin, marine turtle specialist and lecturer at the local marine university, Institut Halieutique et des Sciences Marines (IHSM), and international marine turtle specialist Stephane Ciccione, director of the marine turtle centre of excellence, Kelonia, based in Reunion. Through the exchange of information and knowledge, we aim to build a platform with the aim of developing the capacity of marine turtle research in southwest Madagascar. One of the first programs planned by this union is the implementation of a turtle tagging program for marine turtles rescued through the traditional social agreement (dina).

IH.SMkelonia logo


Building of the marine turtle network for Southwest Madagascar – proposed affiliation of grassroots organisations, NGO’s, Local institutions, and National centres of excellence.

FANO project alliance structure

The result of this union is the turtle tagging program: The director of Kolonia (Stephane Ciccoione) has donated a year’s supply of tags to the turtle project. Berthin from the IH.SM will donate the tagging applicator which is used to check the tags. The use of tags will allow the FANO project and the FI.PA.MI.FA  members to monitor the turtle fishery ensuring under sized tag turtles which are thus easily identified and returned to the water.


Update regarding turtle natal beach south of Toliara;

The overall goal of the FI.PA.MI.FA conservation plan is to promote the long term survival of sea turtle populations, including the sustained recovery of depleted stocks and the safeguarding of critical habitat, integrated with the well-being and needs of human communities with which they interact.

The turtle association FI.PA.MI.FA has been asked to assist in the implementation of DINAs to protect turtle population in the Anakao region. This region has a long tradition associated with marine turtles (Lilette 2006), community practices dictate that a maximum of one to two marine turtles are taken and consumed by the community per month. However, migratory and/or displaced people are settling in this region and disregarding the community practices. Until now, those who have disregarded the ruling have been punished by the community, however this is getting more and more difficult as migration due to poor fishing grounds increases (pers.ob elder from Anakao region).

Turtle association members believe that the protection of natal beaches is paramount for the protection of the fishery. In addition, young members of the turtle association have expressed a desire to whiteness the hatching process (something they have never seen).

Therefore, FI.PA.MI.FA and Emma Gibbons head of the project, will be traveling to Anakao on the 25th – 7th of April to visit 10 villages and investigate claims of natal beaches/nesting female turtles, assess the marine turtle fishery and gain an understanding of the area.


FANO Turtle Project Update February 2013

Emma and the FANO team have successfully passed 5 dinas (local law) as of 13/02/2013 after discussing with the fishermen and the elders of the various villages around the bay.

Emma Gibbons outlining minimum turtle capture size to FI.PA.MI.FA members

Emma Gibbons outlining minimum turtle capture size to FI.PA.MI.FA members



Turtle Education Day; empowering the leaders of the Vezo community: January 2012

On the 19th of January 2013 over 90 members of the turtle association and honorary guests from the 13 coastal villages of the Bay of Ranobe attended a turtle education day held at the primary school of Ifaty. Lessons were provided for all attendees on marine turtle biology and juvenile survival rates, along with information on national and international laws. Collaborating together, agreements were reached providing two DINAs (local indigenous laws) to manage the hunting and consumption of turtle meat in the Bay. The first DINA enforces an ad infinitum hunting ban of juvenile turtles under 70cm. The second DINA refers to the closed turtle fishery season from 1st of December to the 1st of March. The next few months will be dedicated to awareness raising of the DINAs in villages across the Bay and the implementation of marine turtle protection teams to enforce each DINA.



ReefDoctor Fano Project Update

In December 2012 the ‘ReefDoctor Fano Project’ helped to create the first grass-roots marine turtle management association in Madagascar; ‘Fikam-banana Paniriky Miaro ny Fano’ (FI.PA.MI.FA). An alliance of turtle fishers, community leaders and elders, FI.PA.MI.FA focuses on strengthening traditional customs and consumptive taboos that underpin the cultural significance of marine turtles.  Through the empowerment of Vezo coastal communities, this approach has proven to be a promising tool for the management of the local, marine turtle fishery.  In 2013, the first community enforced marine turtle size restriction and closed season will be implemented in the Bay of Ranobe, encompassing a four-month ban on turtle hunting from 1st of December to the 1st of April.


 UNDP Capacity building for Government

In November 2012, ReefDoctor hosted the second of a very successful UNDP training event. This ten day capacity building program was run for a variety of government officials working in the marine environment sector, providing them with the autonomy to collect scientific data. ReefDoctor’s highly qualified staff provided guidance on the collection of scientific information along with instruction in PADI scuba diving.



Coral Gardening Success!

RD Director, Roderick Stein-Rostaing and Dr Vivienne Johnson removing algae from coral nursery

In July 2012, ReefDoctor implemented a new long-term reef restoration project within the Bay of Ranobe in order to assist the natural recovery process of the degraded and damaged coral reefs. We adopted a two step restoration protocol known as ‘coral gardening’.

The mariculture of small coral branch fragments (broken coral pieces of Acropora species that have been recovered from seagrass beds) are placed in a nursery afloat in mid-water at the Massif des Rose marine reserve. The coral fragments are going to be maricultured in the nursery to sizes suitable for transplantation (which takes between 100-400 days), with regular cleaning maintenance by the ReefDoctor science team to ensure that  they are not overgrown by algae.

Nursery grown coral colonies will then be transplanted onto degraded reef sites to stimulate natural regeneration and recovery. This project is being conducted in association with the local fishermen’s association, FI.MI.HA.RA in order to engage them in the restoration of their marine habitats and resources. Preliminary results from this pilot project have been very encouraging, prompting the ReefDoctor science team to plan for capacity expansion in 2013.


Updates from the Massif des Roses and Ankaranjelita marine reserves, read the report below:

Bay of Ranobe Marine Reserves Report 2012 English Version

Bay of Ranobe Marine Reserves Report 2012 French Version



Implementation and expansion of a new family planning initiative

Uncontrolled population growth is in direct conflict with sustainability. In response to a lack of access to medical services and contraceptive medication across the Bay of Ranobe, ReefDoctor, in collaboration with Blue Ventures (BV), implemented BV’s family planning initiative. This involved the creation of distribution points for heavily subsidised contraceptive products to promote sustainability and alleviate poverty by empowering women to manage their reproductive status and reduce unwanted pregnancies. In September 2012, due to the success of a funded pilot study in 2011, ReefDoctor received follow up funding from the organisation Population Matters to expand the project to more villages in the north of the Bay.

Read the pilot report below.

Family Pilot Project Report


Solar Oven Project

Charcoal production is one of the most destructive industries in Madagascar and is responsible for the clearance of large amounts of indigenous forests. Capturing the suns energy to provide a clean source of fuel through use of solar ovens allows families to reduce their energy costs and at the same time protect these unique environments. In August 2012, Reef-Doctor and the Association pour le Développement de l’Énergie Solaire Suisse-Madagascar (ADES) provided training and distribution of solar cookers to two villages in the Bay of Ranobe. ADES states that ‘ Solar cookers are a viable way for local families to reduce the dependency on charcoal with temperatures of 150° C generated, almost all meals can be cooked with solar’ All ADES products are produced by local craftsmen in the ADES workshop, Toliara.

A special thanks to Jonathon Ernst and Eloise Piguet, ReefDoctor volunteers who provided initial funding for the project.









Marine Conservation Society (MCS) provided funding for a ReefDoctor assessment of the curio trade in South West Madagascar, read the December 2011 report below.


Curio Trade Assessment