By Matt Hitchiner. Volunteers get muddy spending a couple of days helping in the construction of a new sea cucumber pen for the students in Tampolove, a small village in the South of Velondriake. Once the delivery of juveniles arrives on the 23rd of September it will take 11 months for the Sea cucumbers to grow large enough to be sold on the lucrative béche-de-mer market. With one Sea cucumber able to pay for a student’s term fees, there is great potential for this project to drastically change their lives. Other than school fees the students want to use the revenue earned to pay for medical evacuation and health care, as well as desperately needed school equipment.
The volunteers relax with a game of volleyball on half-moon beach after spending the previous night living with the Sea cucumber farmers in Tampolove. Their night was not filled with much sleep though. This was neither due to the bellow of the geckos, nor the early start to village life, but instead due to the need for them to help complete the monthly monitoring mission to count and weigh all the sea cucumbers in each farmer’s pen. With guidance from the star-coverd night, Team Zanga (Sea cucumber in Gasy) waded out during low tide in search of the illusive sea cucumbers that it is hoped still reside within the pens. Although the farming stock of Sea cucumbers has been greatly depleted due to unforseen issues, the sheer numbers, as well as the enthusiasm, from Team Zanga meant that we were able to locate over 1500 specimens, with potentially 100 being larger than the minimum market size of 300 g.
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