Resilient Island Endeavour (RISE) Project

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

Climate change is a global issue which is getting increasingly more prominent. Small islands, such as Mauritius, are often the most affected by the consequences derived from global warming, such as the rising sea levels and more extreme weather conditions. One large part of the Mauritian population who are especially vulnerable to these changes are the country’s fisherfolk. The increased sea temperatures and sea levels lead to a loss of marine life and an increased presence of algae, which consequently negatively affects the fishing waters. Therefore, it is vital to find alternative and more sustainable ways of fishing and agriculture, to not only ensure that these fishermen can continue with their practices, but also make the island more resilient to climate change.

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

In order to help find solutions for these issues, the Italian non-governmental organization Cooperazione Internazionale Sud Sud (CISS) initiated the Resilent ISland Endeavaour (RISE) project in Mauritius in 2023. CISS has had decades of experience in cooperation projects in developing, resource-limited countries across Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Mediterranean. The main objective of the RISE project is to promote the dissemination of innovative and sustainable seaweed farming systems for the dietary diversification and improvement of resilience to climate change disasters and erratic weather behaviors in Mauritius. Utilizing seaweed farming as an alternative for the fishermen is beneficial for the island since, when for example used as a fertilizer, it can make farmers and crops more erratic-rainfall resilient, since it maintains soil moisture well.

The RISE project is funded by the European Union (EU), and alongside CISS, EPCO is working as a co-applicant and is helping the project achieve all its objectives. 

The project is currently being implemented in 10 coastal villages on the east-coast of Mauritius with a target of 250 seaweed farmers and 10 producers, both men and women. The villages targeted are the following: Grand River South East; Quatre Sœurs; Grand Sables; Bambous Virieux; Bois des Amourettes; Old Grand Port; Morcellement Ferney; Rivieres des creoles; Petit Bel Air and Ville Noire. Currently, the participants per village vary depending on how many people are interested in the project in each village. 

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Fig 3: Area where the villages are located

The first part of the project began with community mapping and conducting surveys, in order to collect data on the fertilizers used, the percentage of population using compost, types of crops, waste composition, etc., and and additionally finding all the community members interested in the project. The next part of the project focused on developing two rounds of trainings for the interested people in each village. 

Fig 4 & 5: Trainings in Grand Sable

The first training in the villages had the purpose of  educating the individuals about the negative effects of climate change, and how it is affecting Mauritius overall. In addition, some potential sustainable technologies which could be utilized in the future were introduced. These technologies included for example smart agriculture farming methods. 

The second training focused on seaweed itself; different seaweed varieties, techniques to produce seaweed, seed preparation and different usages of seaweed. After this training, the goal was for the beneficiaries to know how to grow, maintain and utilize seaweed. 

Fig 6: Meeting fishermen in Mahebourg

Now that the trainings have been completed, the next cluster of activities is to focus on the creation of seaweed (Ulva lactuca) farming lines which will be placed in three areas on the Southeast coast of Mauritius. In order to grow seaweed, the floating PVC/bamboo raft method will be used: a total of 3 frames approximately 24m×16m will be employed and utilized by the beneficiaries. 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
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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

Once the seaweed is harvested, it will be brought to a multipurpose center to be processed and manufactured. Part of the seaweed yields will be destined to the production of fertilizer, while part of it will be processed by 10 different beneficiaries to produce superfood that will be packed and distributed to 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).
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.