Ifaty farmers with first seaweed

Seaweed Sales Across the Bay

It was a busy month for seaweed farmers across the Bay of Ranobe in February, with sales taking place in four villages.

On Monday 15th, the village of Ambolamailaky celebrated their first seaweed sale since the Darwin Initiative-funded project was implemented there in October 2015. Twenty-two farming households sold a total of 858 kg of dried seaweed, an outstanding result for their first harvest.

Two days later, the village of Amboaboaky also experienced their first seaweed sale, with eight farming families presenting a combined yield of 338 kg of dried seaweed.  Although one of the smaller villages in the Bay of Ranobe, the farmers of Amboaboaky are proving themselves to be adept seaweed farmers, and they are excited about their future prospects as seaweed farmers. 

As the collection truck moved south along the bay, the village of Mangily was next in line to sell its seaweed.  These farmers have had four sales to date, however this was their first for 2016.  A total of 677 kg of seaweed were harvested, dried, and sold by 16 farmers.

Finally, came the village of Ifaty, where 14 households sold 672 kg of seaweed in the last sale of the month.  All the sales for February produced a combined harvest of 2545 kg of dried seaweed.

The farmers involved in the Darwin Initiative-funded alternative livelihoods project have been working consistently to understand how their seaweed grows, and to develop a deeper understanding of exactly how to care for their seaweed to attain the best results.  Their success so far is attributable not only to their hard work, but also their willingness to try something different.  While most of the farmers engaged in this project had heard of seaweed farming, most of them had never done it before.  Certainly, none of them had ever done it like this before.

While there are numerous methods of growing seaweed, in Madagascar the Off-Bottom Method, where seaweed is grown on ropes just off the seabed, is the most common.  Reef Doctor experimented with numerous growing techniques, and introduced the Long-Line Method to the farmers of the Bay of Ranobe.  This system uses floating ropes placed in deeper water, and consequently has numerous benefits.  Improved access to sunlight and nutrients allows for faster growth, alongside reduced competition with seagrass.  Farmers have access to their farms at any time, and can work from their boats, avoiding exposure to the harsh elements.  Additionally, the location of the farms is more flexible, avoiding any potential conflicts over access to the marine environment.  This technique has proven to be so favourable that the Long-Line Method is spreading to other seaweed producing regions throughout the SouthWest Madagascar, as word travels. 

Given the most recent harvest results, it is clear that the seaweed farmers in the Bay of Ranobe are taking to their new livelihoods.  Farmers are excited to be at the forefront of seaweed farming in Madagascar, gladly showing off their farms and the results of their dedication.  At Reef Doctor, we are excited to watch the seaweed farms grow, production increase, and communities develop.  It is a long road out of poverty, but for those fishermen now farming seaweed, the first steps have already been taken.

Story by Cale Golding (Senior Aquaculture Technician) & Ivana Rubino (RD Comms Officer)

sea cucumbers

Ambolamailaky Sea Cucumber Sale Success

Story by RD Communications Officer Ivana Rubino

The village of Ambolamailaky had another successful sea cucumber sale on Tuesday 9th February, as part of Darwin Initiative-funded Alternative Livelihoods Programme.  It was a very busy sale because all of the 20 farming households in the village had a good harvest.

Spring tides occur directly after a new or full moon and bring the greatest difference between the high and low water levels. Sea cucumber sales take place during the spring tide because the pens are more exposed by the very low water levels. As the tide started to go out on Tuesday night the farmers set out for the sea cucumber pens. Each farmer opened their pens and collected the sea cucumbers in large basins. Once they had collected all the sea cucumbers that had reached sale weight, they were brought to the weighing station for processing.

Despite it being close to midnight when low tide occurred and the weighing began, the atmosphere was lively and everyone was in high spirits while the processing took place. Weighing takes place as quickly as possible so that all the sea cucumbers can be processed before the tide starts to come in again. By 2:30am the processing was complete and everyone left the farms to return to the village for a few hours sleep before 6am when the final stages of the sale took place and the farmers were paid for their crop.

A total of 971 sea cucumbers were sold. This generated an income of 4,389,000 MGA. The equivalent in US dollars is $1385, giving each household an approximate income of $69 USD or 21,9450 MGA since the last sale in December. Due to the high quantity of sea cucumbers reaching market size, sales will now take place in Ambolamailaky on a monthly basis – or more frequently if there is sufficient stock within the pens. This exciting development is further evidence that sea cucumber farming can be a sustainable and reliable source of income for the community, providing the farmers with security and hopefully an end to the daily struggle of rural poverty.


sea cucumber pen

Ministry of Fisheries Witnesses Andrevo Success

Story by Cale Golding (Senior Aquaculture Technician) & Ivana Rubino (RD Comms Officer)

On Saturday 6th February representatives of the Pole Integres de Croissance (PIC – a government-funded project that aims to develop a better understanding of economics for already established projects and businesses in Madagascar), the General Director of the Ministry of Fisheries of Madagascar – Monsieur Gilbert, and the Director of Fisheries for Toliara – Monsieur Emilson, visited the village of Andrevo to meet with sea cucumber farmers and see their Darwin Initiative-funded aquaculture project first hand.

The farmers of Andrevo, together with representatives of ReefDoctor explained how the sea cucumber farming project works and gave a tour of the debarcadere, where sea cucumber sales take place in the village. The visitors were also shown the location of the farm and were interested in understanding the dynamics of the project. They were especially impressed with the sustainable earning potential of the farming model.

This visit comes at a time when Andrevo and its farmers are really starting to make substantial strides forward in sea cucumber farming and in lifting themselves out of poverty. Just two weeks after a record sale from which the community earned 6.6 million MGA collectively, another sale on Monday 8th February generated a further 2.5 million MGA. This means that Andrevo’s farmers have earned approximately 15 times their usual income since November 2015, and since November 2014, the inception of the project, they have earnt almost $2 USD per day. Some of the farmers have used this income to replace the vondro roofs of their homes with corrugated iron, which is more durable than the vondro reeds that degrade quickly and offer little protection from the elements. Other farmers can now send their children to school, an opportunity they would not have been able to afford otherwise.

More significantly, the farmers are planning ahead and managing their farms with an eye to a sustainable future and continuous income. This latest sale and its incredible result just two weeks after a bumper crop, is a very positive indication that sea cucumber farming can provide a sustainable and improved future for these farmers and the community.




building sea cucumber pens

Sea cucumber farming raises households out of poverty

Story by Cale Golding and Oriana Wouters (Aquaculture Team), and Ivana Rubino (RD Comms Officer)

The small fishing community of Andrevo in the Bay of Ranobe celebrated their third crop of farmed sea cucumbers last week, with a record harvest. Five households sold 1639 sea cucumbers in total, generating over 6.6 million MGA (6,626,500 MGA to be exact). That is $2063 USD!  This is the equivalent of each household earning $6.88 USD a day since their last harvest in November 2015.

These sums represent a very successful sale that will allow the community to buy food for their families. In the long term the sale is another significant step forward in bringing this community out of poverty by providing the farmers with a financial reserve to enable them to plan and invest in future stocks and equipment for their farms. They can also draw on this reserve in times of hardship.  Everyone is working towards a time when sea cucumber farming will prove to be a permanent alternative livelihood to ensure that the farmers will no longer need to rely on fishing to feed their families, which in turn will reduce pressure on already over fished stocks in the Bay of Ranobe.

This Darwin Initiative-funded project was established with the aim of lifting families out of poverty.  The excellent results from this latest sea cucumber sale indicate that this being achieved, allowing households more freedom to plan ahead, not only with regard to their farms, but also in relation to education, health, nutrition and improving their overall quality of life. Sea cucumber farming is also contributing to gender equality in the Bay of Ranobe, as many of the farmers are women who have, for the first time in their lives for many, access to their own income and earning power.

While farmers were given assistance to build their pens and purchase juvenile sea cucumbers in the initial stage of the project, they are now in a position to contribute to the purchasing of juveniles, and complete the farming cycle.  This is a significant development in allowing the farmers involved to be independent and self-sustaining at the project’s conclusion, ensuring that communities are lifted out of poverty, and stay out.  The motivation and hard work of every member of each household is clearly evident from the results of the sale.

Now that the first batch of stocked sea cucumbers is within market size, harvests can continue regularly every month, ensuring that households receive continuous income.  For the vulnerable fishing communities of the Bay of Ranobe, this financial security affords a greatly improved quality of life and relieves some of the burden on the coral reef ecosystem.

The sea cucumber farmers and everyone at ReefDoctor are very pleased with the results of the third sale. It is a welcome milestone on the road to the alleviation of poverty and a better standard of living for the people of Andrevo.



First Female Seaweed Technician Starts Work Today

Story by Ivana Rubino, Communications Officer 

It’s a very proud day for ReefDoctor and the Bay of Ranobe as Irenne Cavesy, our first female seaweed technician, begins work training seaweed farmers in the community.

Madam Cavesy has been farming seaweed with her son in Mangily since March 2015. She recently began training as a technician because she wanted to develop seaweed farming in the region by sharing her knowledge and experience with the community and neighbouring villages.

ReefDoctor is very proud of all the seaweed technicians and what they have achieved in recent months, but we are especially proud of Madam Cavesy because she is pioneering the advancement of women in seaweed farming in this region. In her own words, she is proud of herself for being the first female seaweed technician. She now has the skills and training to educate other women in the community; promoting gender equality and empowering Vezo women.

We wish Madam Cavesy and all the seaweed technicians in the bay continued success in the expansion of the Darwin Initiative-funded alternative livelihoods project and working towards a better quality of life.