Supporting alternative livelihoods for the Fisher Communities in the South East Marine Protected Area through Ecotourism Development
Supporting alternative livelihoods for the Fisher Communities in the South East Marine Protected Area through Ecotourism Development
1. Executive Summary
The 90 km fringing reef surrounding the island of Rodrigues encloses a lagoon of over 240 km2. An estimated 40% of the lagoon coral and associated ecosystem is severely impacted by destructive fishing practices, siltation from upstream erosion, and pollution from agricultural and sewage run off. Many communities in Rodrigues are dependent on the lagoon, with some 2000 registered fishers attempting to glean a living from the lagoon. More than 900 fishers are estimated to be working in the southern region of the island, where a Marine Protected Area (MPA) has been designated to protect and conserve marine resources, under the project ‘Partnerships for Marine Protected Areas in Mauritius and Rodrigues’ supported by UNDP, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Mauritius and the Rodrigues Regional Assembly. The South East Marine Protected Area was gazetted in 2009. The total area covered under the South East Marine Protected Area is 43.7 kilometer square out of which 15% are conservation zone, inaccessible to the fisher community and – are seasonable zone which will be closed for some time of the year. The total fishing surface area has been reduced whereby, the fisher have to turn to other alternative sustainable means to earn their living.

The aim of this project is to provide an alternative means of subsistence for 14 Fisherwomen by building and operating a multipurpose an eco-touristic handicraft Centre. The project will help marine biodiversity by reducing fishing pressure in the lagoon, allowing fishstocks and degraded habitats to recover, while preserving popular diving and snorkeling sites which have healthy coral cover and are home to endemic species of coral and fish. It will also benefit the community in Graviers by improving their income, by providing a better standard of living for the fishers and their families. The population of Rodrigues is expected to increase from 39,200 in 2010 to 44,200 in 2020. This increase on this small island of 104km² would mean more pressure on natural resources (fishing, land use, water supply…) which are already threatened.

“Rodrigues Association Feminine Pecheurs Graviers” will implement the project. The Association was formed in 2009 to bring together the fisherwomen of Graviers so that as a group, they can work together with new ideas, carry out fundraising activities and learn from each other. This allows them to sustain their day-to-day expenses and prevent them from going fishing where there are fewer octopus and fish. At the end of the project, direct employments will be provided for at least 14 members of the community. The project will allow the association to have a facility center where they will be able to perform their patchwork, local products to tourists such as local juices, cakes and finished products like local jam, also with a perspective of developing more activities to make it sustainable. A further result will be that this pilot project can be replicated in the different villages within the South East Marine Protected Area to sustain alternative livelihoods for the fishers.

This project will also demonstrate financial benefits and empowerment for the local communities, meanwhile preserving the marine biodiversity. It will finally aim at raising awareness on the need to protect Rodrigues marine environment, so promoting marine conservation and fishery sustainability. The total project cost has been calculated at Rs 1901900 of which Rs 1501900 is requested from the GEF-SGP. Contributions towards the remaining costs would be in kind contribution from the members of the Association. International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has joined the initiative to provide capacity building support to the 17 beneficiaries as well as 5 sewing machines and necessary tools to start their business. 5 women from the association have benefitted from training to patchwork garment making and quilt-making in Mauritius in 2011.
Organisational Background and Capacity to implement the Project

Rodrigues Association Feminine Pecheurs de Graviers, has been established since 2009 and is duly registered with the Registrar of Associations in Mauritius. The Rodrigues Association Feminine de Graviers was created to respond to the demand of the poor fisher ladies of Graviers to be together to be able to gain from training courses and also develop more of the handicraft to earn a living at the end of each month. The Association also organises monthly fundraising activities like dancing in the community centre, to raise funds so that the ladies can have enough supply to do their handicraft products. The President of the Association is very dedicated person, has on her own had the association registered. She has also been trained in how to manage projects in the “Leve deboute” Programme. More recently, the Association received training from Mrs Papiah in Rodrigues in basic leadership, business management and marketing courses funded by IOM. Five women within the association do sewing and embroidery and wanted to expand their experience so as to create new products to sell to tourists. In that same line, IOM has allowed the five women to follow a training course in Mauritius with Magic Fingers specialized in Patch working and Quilting.

Project objectives and expected results

Fishing is one of the largest employment sectors on Rodrigues, as there is a lack of industrial development and tourism is in its infancy. In 2006, there were 2,024 full-time, registered fishers (13% of the total workforce) with a further 2,000 people fishing on a casual basis. The octopus fishery is dominated by women, over 90% of whom earn less than $100 per month from fishing. The fisheries are however in serious decline and fishers are suffering from a loss of income with many of them now depending on Government allowances. Catches of octopus have declined by almost 70% in the past 10 years and a similar pattern is also seen in finfish catches, with declining catch sizes and the regular landing of immature individuals.
The techniques used by the fishers also cause substantial damage to the lagoon coral and algal habitats which are important to ecosystem health. This habitat damage is of particular concern as Rodrigues is part of the Mascarene biodiversity hotspot, which is the fourth most important reef ecosystem in the world. In response to the degradation of the reef environment and the need to improve fisheries sustainability, the Rodrigues Regional Assembly has embarked on a strategy to develop a network of marine reserves and a marine protected area in the south to allow degraded habitats to recover and fish stocks to regenerate. The South East Marine Protected Areas was proclaimed in 2009 under a UNDP GEF MSP project, in full collaboration with the local fishing communities. A key issue now however, is the lack of alternative sources of income for fishers. Graviers, is one of the coastal village that is found within the South East Marine Protected Area. The fishers have been fully supportive of this marine protected area and have even proposed to have a conservation zone in Graviers where there is no fishing activity. However, there are approximately 146 fishers who are dependent on this area for their livelihood. The women (about 76 fisher women aged from 30 to 50 years old) are mostly involved in line and octopus fishing, but with the decrease of marine resources and now with decrease in their fishing grounds, need to find other activities to earn a living.

The primary aim of this project is to provide an alternative source of income for the fisherwomen of Graviers. This will help marine biodiversity by reducing fishing pressure in the lagoon, allowing fish stocks and degraded habitats to recover whi3le preserving popular diving and snorkeling sites which have healthy coral cover and are home to endemic species of coral and fish. The project also aims to build a facility for the fisherwomen where these women will be able to run their activities of sewing, quilting, cooking and offering a show room where they can welcome tourists and locals to buy their products. It will also benefit the families of these women by improving their income and provide a better standard of living.
The specific objectives of the project are:

1. To build a multipurpose eco touristic handicraft centre as a sustainable
alternative to fishing.
2. To empower the members of the association to run a business and also
improve their skills of their finished products.
3. To establish a demonstration project for the South East Marine
Protected Area.

The development of alternative livelihoods for fishers is vital to ensuring the success of the Medium sized UNDP GEF project on South East Marine Protected Area in Rodrigues as well as to restoring the fish resources of the lagoon. There is a very important number of fisherwomen in Graviers who are dependent on the marine resources. This project is in line with the current priorities of the Rodrigues Regional Assembly (RRA) which has stressed the need to remove pressure from the lagoon to allow the degraded ecosystem to regenerate. During the workshop which approved Action Plan for the sustainable alternative livelihood for SEMPA (Maisonneuve, 2011) undertaken by UNDP, the fisher communities unanimously agreed on the development of alternative livelihood to the Fisheries Sector in Rodrigues and they also highlighted the need to identify alternative livelihoods for fishers to reduce pressure in the lagoon. The development of entrepreneurship is an extremely important issue in Rodrigues. The RRA aims to encourage more people to move into new income generating activities in order to boost up the economy of the island and provide employment. The project is in line with the GEF-SGP focal areas of biodiversity (promotion of conservation and sustainable use of ecosystems). This project builds upon the current project” Partnerships for Marine Protected Areas in Mauritius and Rodrigues” supported by UNDP, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Mauritius and the Rodrigues Regional Assembly and relates to other GEF-SGP projects implemented in Rodrigues concerning the development of alternative livelihoods for fishers affecting the establishment of Marine Protected Areas.

Expected Results
The intended result is a multipurpose eco touristic handicraft centre where a group of 14 fishers women will be producing handicrafts and local products for tourists and local goods for the community and which will provide sufficient income to members of the Association, preventing the need to go out fishing and therefore reducing pressure on the lagoon. The project will also create new business opportunities in the area through value added products (i.e. uniform for the children, tourism, and finished handicrafts) providing benefit to the wider community. There are two primary schools and one secondary school with a population of 2300 students. We are contemplating to tap half of the uniform of these school children which is about 1150. The selling of a skirt/short is Rs175 and the school blouse is Rs75. The turnover would be approximately Rs 258750 for school uniform out of which 25% is our estimated profit which will be shared among us. Uniform will be one of the activities as we would have a snack, and a handicraft shop. We are expecting to have a monthly income nearing Rs5000 monthly in the low season of tourist arrival. A further result will be the creation of a demonstration project for the other villages within the South East Marine Protected Area, which could be replicated in other areas around the island.
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Project Snapshot

Rodrigues Association Feminine Pecheur
Area Of Work:
Grant Amount:
US$ 50,000.00
Co-Financing Cash:
US$ 24,096.00
Co-Financing in-Kind:
US$ 3,257.00
Project Number:
Satisfactorily Completed
Project Characteristics and Results
Notable Community Participation
Most of the members of the Rodrigues Association Feminine Pecheurs Graviers are fishers from the communities of Graviers who will be gaining a living from the centre and the activities offered. The project will benefit the village as a whole as the association will be buying local products from the community but also helping ladies within the community to earn a living. The building up of the centre as well will involve local builders from the community.
Gender Focus
Rodrigues Association Feminine Pecheurs Graviers consists of 14 fisherwomen and they will be the direct beneficiaries of the project. And on the other hand, men will benefit from the building of the centre.
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Increase in household income by increased income or reduced costs due to SGP project 14

Grantee Contact

Mrs Chrisna Botlar
Phone: 831 5172
Fax: 831 5172


Graviers, Rodrigues
Rodrigues Island , Rodrigues ,

SGP Country office contact

Mrs. Pamela Bapoo-Dundoo
(230) 213 53 84
(230) 212 14 11


2nd Floor, Sugar Industry Pension Fund Building, 1 Remy Ollier Street
Port Louis, Mauritius

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