Written by Thibault Giulioli (Indian Ocean Trepang) & Fred Pascal (Ocean Farmers)

Industrial fishing methods are putting at stake our oceans health, depleting fish stocks and depriving coastal fishing communities of some of their natural fishing grounds, forcing them to put more pressure onto the lagoon ecosystems.

Poverty and over-fishing are the Madagascar South-West region’s main challenges. Its population median age is 19 years; in 12 years from now it will have grown by 50% and it is facing migrants leaving the island plateau due to deforestation and looking for a better livelihood on the sea shores but with a very limited education level and with no knowledge of the sea.

Early this year, Indian Ocean Trepang and Ocean Farmers – sister companies, respectively engaged in the aquaculture of sea cucumber (Holoturia scabra) and seaweed (Kappaphyccus alvarezzi) in South-West Madagascar – have decided to launch a “2017 Seaweed and sea cucumber aquaculture field technicians training course”.

The objectives are 3 folds:

  1. to develop in Toliara region a pool of recognized and certified aquaculture field technicians, where this industry is growing,
  2. to teach and to assist coastal communities, who have decided to engage in this activity in addition or in substitution to their traditional fishing activity,
  3. for both organizers and local NGOs to recruit new and additional field technicians to support their developments.

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This is one of the building blocks of Indian Ocean Trepang and Ocean Farmers, whose mission is to achieve long term ocean and coastal prosperity for ecosystems and local communities, through a climate-resilient and environmental friendly blue economy model combining sustainable community-based aquaculture and small scale fisheries on multiple species.

This training course is spread over a 6-week period, comprised of a 4-week core curriculum, which is common to all trainees, and a 2-week specialization course, either on sea cucumber or on seaweed. All learning is balanced between lectures, desk-work and on-site activities.

During this 6-week course students are on a boarding mode and all expenses are taken care of, since candidates who take the course cannot afford it. A pool of 30 tutors are delivering the training as well as supervising the students. This has led us to limit enrollment to 45 persons, to provide an optimum learning environment and we anticipate certifying half of this number in sea cucumber farming and half in seaweed farming.

In the second half of February, this 2017 training course was advertised on local radios with posts at local universities, schools, and Toliara’s townhall as well as within the 2 organizer companies.

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Following the March 6th registration deadline, 358 individuals – from 19 to 49 years of age – had applied, out of which 14 were women. Those 358 individuals went through a rigorous selection process that included a file review, swimming test, written test, and individual interview. On March 20th, 42 men and 3 women started the training course.

May 1st will be the graduation ceremony and we are looking forward to all of them being hired within 3 months after graduation while 50% of them would become within 2 years opinion leaders and advocates of seaweed and sea cucumber aquaculture.

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