Resilient Island Endeavour (RISE) Project

The application of a seaweed-based multipurpose agricultural system to combat the effects of climate change in Mauritius

Small islands such as Mauritius often  experience the most negative effects of climate change, despite these smaller island nations contributing the least to the problem. Fisherfolk in Mauritius are amongst the most vulnerable communities and are openly exposed to the negative effects of climate change and heavily feel the impact of rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions. Increased sea temperatures lead to the loss of marine life and increase algae level, which leads to more unfavourable conditions for marine biodiversity to flourish.

As a result of this, it is imperative that fisherfolk become more resilient to the negative effects of climate change through more sustainable practices. Therefore, the ongoing Resilient Island Endeavour Project (R.I.S.E) is a key factor in ensuring the increased resilience of these fisherfolk. The Italian NGO, Cooperazione Internazionale Sud Sud (CISS), is currently implementing a project in Mauritius, in collaboration with EPCO, that aims to promote better agricultural practices that are more resilient to climate change. CISS has more than 30 years of experience in the field of international cooperation. The project is being funded by the EU. The focal point of this project is that the fisherfolk can use the sea to their advantage and maximise the use of resources from the sea in a sustainable manner in order to eliminate any bad habits or practices and contribute to the overall well-being of the island. Mauritius has an abundance of seaweed and seaweed farming does not require other fertilisers which could impact the surrounding environment. This encourages producers to diversify their production. The project aims to contribute to the overall climate-change resilience of the island of Mauritius. This broader objective will be realised by promoting the dissemination of innovative and sustainable seaweed farming in order to contribute to dietary diversification and boost resilience to the negative effects of climate change.  

It is worth noting that seaweed (Ulva Lactuca) is a rich source of iron, calcium and magnesium making it an accessible and sustainable way to consume nutrient dense foods. This project will tackle some of the biggest problems facing Mauritius, including overuse of pesticides which damages surrounding environments and lack of crop diversity.

Fig 1 & 2: Ulva Lactuca seaweed in Grand River South East

The primary goal of the R.I.S.E project initiated by CISS is to promote the dissemination of innovative and sustainable seaweed farming systems for dietary diversification and increase the resilience to climate change and erratic weather patterns. The seaweed industry is largely unexplored despite the many benefits it brings. Seaweed is nutrient dense which means it not only has health benefits but also is more effective in comparison to chemical fertilisers. Seaweed also is also an excellent way to reduce water loss from soil services. 

The rollout of the project targets 250 small farmers across 10 different coastal villages in Mauritius as well as 10 seaweed producers. The target villages are; Grand River South East, Quatre Soeurs, Grand Sables, Bambous Virieux, Bois des Amourettes, Old Grand Port, Morcellement Ferney, Rivieres des creoles, Petit Bel Air and Ville Noire. The project targets the south-eastern region of the island as it was subject to devastation following the Wakashio oil spill which caused great harm to the coast of Mauritius and negatively impacted the livelihoods of fisherfolk. 

The initial stages of the project are centred around technicalities such as community mapping and surveys. The purpose of this is to draw specific data such as the fertilisers being used, percentage of population currently using compost, waste composition, etc. Following from this, an initial set of training sessions will be held which aim to educate beneficiaries on how to grow and maintain new crops as well as how they can benefit from the use of seaweed fertiliser and mulch. In addition to this, 250 small farmers will receive training sessions that focus on the negative effects of climate change and how to handle the challenges posed by climate change

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Fig 3: Area where the villages are located

Following this initial training and education period, the second cluster of activities will shift its focus towards the creation of seaweed farming lines. This is a key part of the project . In order to ensure that seaweed can flourish, 3 frames will be constructed. These frames will be 12.5m X 12.5m and shall be placed in the ocean and checked on a regular basis. The rafts are placed strategically to the three following locations, to ensure farming sites are accessible to all the people involved in the project:

  1. Floating structure for: Grand River South East, Quatre Soeurs and Grand Sable
  2. Floating structure for: Bambous Virieux, Bois des Amourettes and Old Grand Port
  3. Floating structure for: Morcellement Ferney, Ville Noire, Petit Bel Air and Riviere des Creoles


Fig 4 & 5: Trainings in Grand Sable

Once the seaweed is ready, it will be sent to two different lines of production. Firstly, the seaweed will be used to produce fertiliser, and secondly, the seaweed will be used to produce superfoods by 10 beneficiaries. The final products will be readily available in local grocery stores. There are various reasons why these products will be focused on, such as:

  1. Macro and micro minerals of seaweed are essential to soil fertility and plant development
  2. Macro and micro minerals help aerate the soil and foster pest control
  3. Seaweed-based fertilizers allow crops to be more water scarcity-resilient
  4. Seaweed-based bio-stimulants enhance the growth and yield of crops
  5. The purchase of chemical fertilizer and pesticides is hindered
  6. Seaweed is particularly rich in iron (137 mg per 100 g of product), magnesium (2.250 mg per 100 g) and calcium, (3.052 mg per 100 g).

The third cluster of activities will focus on the dissemination of best practices and innovative techniques relating to seaweed farming in Mauritius. 

Fig 6: Meeting fishermen in Mahebourg
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Fig 7: Approximate locations of the rafts

Each participant will take part in the creation and management of a seaweed farming structure that the R.I.S.E. project will build. These parts will include for example construction, management and harvesting.

At every stage of the project, a boat will be used to check the overall situation on the raft. The poles are tied diagonally in four corners of mainframe, where polypropylene-twisted ropes along with seed materials are tied. The rafts are positioned in the nearshore area where the depth of water is between 1 and 1.5 meter, using a 15 kg anchor. During rough season, various anchors will have to be installed to ensure the rafts stay on place. 

Fig 8: Example what the raft can look like
Figures 9 & 10: EPCO/CISS team on the field checking the possible locations

In the third cluster of activities best practices and innovative techniques related to seaweed farming and experimented by beneficiaries will be disseminated in other areas of Mauritius. The overall progress of the project, funded by the EU, will be documented on social media and the websites of CISS and EPCO. Moreover, the creation video documentary will raise awareness on the impact of seaweed farming in Mauritius. Finally, local university students will be encouraged to present project proposals related to climate change, while local youth attending local art schools will help designing intriguing and biodegradable packaging (made out of jute or other types of fabric) and marketing ideas for the seaweed superfood obtained by processing Ulva lactuca.