Along the coast of Madagascar lies a community called Velondriake. The Vezo people who live have evolved accomplished conservationists due to their reliance on the ocean for almost everything, including their own survival.
The Vezo have turned the part of the ocean they depend on into a marine reserve, and govern it with elected representatives from 25 different villages. The governing body has passed laws prohibiting formerly widespread destructive fishing practices. Despite the relative success of these laws, they unfortunately aren’t enough to keep the community afloat.
This is where the sea cucumber comes in. Fishermen forced to scale back on fishing due to environmental concerns still needed to find a way to generate an income and feed their families. It is for this reason that the Vezo have begun to farm the peculiar echinoderm known as the sea cucumber. Surprisingly, the sea cucumber is not only edible, but also delicious. Luckily, the shallow inlets surrounding the Vezo communities are excellent environments for the culture of sea cucumbers and farming is not too difficult, as the cucumbers feed on naturally occurring detritus on the seafloor.
The sea cucumbers arrive at the farms from a marine institute in Toliara, a larger city in Madagascar, as juveniles and mature within nine months. The exportation of the sea cucumbers has given Velondriake its own niche in the global market and is boosting local incomes. With the help of Blue Ventures, a British marine conservation group, the Vezo people are taking big steps away from poverty and toward sustainability.