Sea cucumber farmers

Reef Doctor Alternative Livelihoods Programme

Darwin Initiative logoDarwin Initiative Funding for the Conservation and Sustainable-use of Marine Turtles, South-West Madagascar

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world, with 92% of the population living on less than $2 per day. In the semi-arid, drought-prone region of Toliara, Southwest Madagascar, poverty is even more severe, as harsh living conditions drive more-and-more people towards the coast to eke out an existence from an already over-exploited ecosystem. Increasing levels of poverty in the Bay of Ranobe are mainly attributed to a) decreasing fishery catches and a lack of alternative income sources, and b) country-wide economic instability, poor infrastructure, and limited fisheries surveillance and management.

In April 2014, Reef Doctor was awarded a Darwin Initiative grant for the conservation and sustainable-use of marine turtles in the Bay of Ranobe. The aim of this three-year funded project is to promote the long-term survival of marine turtle populations through the implementation of a bay-wide aquaculture project. This will assist in the transition towards sustainable marine-based livelihoods and provide a pathway to poverty alleviation within local communities.

Aquaculture, as a sustainable source of income and development, encourages resource stewardship rather than resource consumption. The initiative offers families training, information, set-up materials, access to markets and ongoing support, to establish community owned and operated seaweed and sea cucumber farms. Seaweed is grown for a component called carrageenan, while sea cucumbers are produced for human consumption. Both are exported internationally. Such aquaculture activities aim to diversify income streams and relieve pressure on overexploited turtles and fisheries, while respecting the cultural importance of the oceans to coastal communities

The three key objectives of this long-term strategy are as follows:

  • Sustainable sea cucumber and seaweed aquaculture. Providing communities with the tools, resources and support for a robust aquaculture program with the capacity to provide guaranteed market access, food security, economic growth, and wealth for rural fishing communities. These aquaculture programmes have the potential to persist long after the three-year lifetime of the project. Further information can be found on the Sea Cucumber Aquaculture and Seaweed Aquaculture pages.
  • Reduction in fisheries-related turtle mortality. The activities and capacity of FIMPAMIFA, a local association responsible for the implementation and enforcement of local turtle fishery law, will be strengthened. In order to reduce turtle fishery pressure, interested turtle hunters will be able to make the transition into aquaculture activities. Read more on our Fano Project page.
  • Protection of seagrass habitat. Beach seine (a fishing practice which is destructive to seagrass beds) fisherman will also have the opportunity to switch to an aquaculture-based livelihood. The project aims to create seagrass reserves, with zoning for strict protection and restricted use, to protect 10% of the total seagrass habitats in the Bay of Ranobe.

This programme is the single greatest conservation and poverty alleviation investment in the Bay of Ranobe in recorded history. It seeks to become a working model and platform for marine conservation, sustainable marine-based livelihoods, and poverty alleviation throughout the Western Indian Ocean that will contribute to on-going regional conservation efforts and global sustainability.


To date, sea cucumber and seaweed farming as sustainable livelihood options have been developed in eight villages, generating over $24,000 USD in twelve months.  The reduced economic incentive to hunt marine turtles has saved over 1,000 juveniles in two and a half years.

For the latest project updates please visit our blog page.