Six months ago, Christophe became a seaweed farmer. He trained with 21 other families as part of WWF’s initiative to introduce algoculture as a sustainable source of income for the people of the Mahafaly plateau.
People laughed at him. In the small village of Ankilimionga on the southern coast of Madagascar, most people are fishermen and have been for hundreds of years, catching enough fish for their families and a little surplus to sell if the conditions are favorable. Overfishing has made the amount of fish in the region steady decrease, putting more strain on an already fragile lifestyle.
Now, Christophe maintains 120 lines of algae, which he harvests two or three times a month. The method of farming is pretty simple: he ties algae onto a line, weights both ends, submerges the line and waits. Once he harvests the algae, he sells it to COPEFRITO, a company based out of Toliara which exports the seaweed to France. Seaweed is growing in demand there as a health food, and its gelling properties have caused toothpaste companies to begin including it in their products.
Seaweed farming, in addition to being an alternative to over-exploitative fishing, has remarkable environmental benefits. The presence of the seaweed not only helps to de-acidify ocean waters by removing carbon, but also creates a healthy environment in which shellfish thrive.
After seeing the success of Christophe and the other families that piloted WWF’s algoculture program, other villagers who initially hesitated to join the project have signed on as well. The number of households that farm algae has grown from 22 to 35 over the past six months.
As for Christophe, he is in the process of making improvements to his house with the money he makes from selling the algae. Now that they do not have to worry each day about getting enough food for his family, Christophe, his wife and his young son look hopefully to the future. Christophe has started employing people to help him manage the algae, and he plans to expand even more and double the amount of lines that he has. Throughout the region, WWF continues to give opportunities for seaweed farming to many other families like Christophe’s, with the hopes that local communities can become the architects of a cleaner and more bountiful future for their children.