Mangrove oyster, a pearl grown in Senegal

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Oyster harvesting in March 2022 on the roots of mangroves, in the mangrove forests of the Jowal Vadioth Marine Protected Area, located about one hundred kilometers south of Dakar.

Behind the fishing town of Joal-Fadiouth 120 kilometers south of Dakar, oysters abound in the mangrove-bordered saltwater, a still poorly exploited protein food source that promises new income.

Bento Sonko, in her fifties, is one of many women who support entire families by harvesting sea slugs. “It is a stressful job that requires a lot of resources. Unfortunately we do not have any”Crying in the water in front of a basin Crasostria Gassar, a local variety that occurs naturally on the roots of mangroves. In these times of food insecurity and marine overfishing, Senegal dreams of modern, productive and sustainable oyster farming. But the largely informal activity, with a few thousand jobs, 90% of which are women, still focused on traditional selection.

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In 2017, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), only 400 tons of Senegalese production came from oyster beds while 15,600 tons were taken from mangrove forests in the Seine Saloum delta, from Petit Côte to the south. Dakar or from Casamance in the south of the country. By comparison, China, the world’s largest producer, harvests 3.5 million tons annually, according to the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea (Ifremer).

Go “towards reproduction”

In Senegal, oysters are mostly dried, then cooked over a wood fire. Its salty and smoky taste, crisp on the outside and mushy on the inside, makes it popular in local markets. It is also sold boiled.

Oyster production is below potentialBoubacar Banda Diop, responsible for oyster farming at the Ministry of Fisheries, admits, stressing that the state has established in recent years “development plan”, in particular to improve the sanitary conditions of production. It is important to establish water quality control because production areas “Vulnerable to chemical, biological, microbiological and microalgae contamination”he explains.

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At the same time, several cooperation programs have focused on Senegalese oysters. The “FISH4ACP” programme, launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization in 2021 with European funding, began with an assessment of activity to develop a ten-year national strategy (2021-2031). Objectives: To improve sanitary conditions, production and launch techniques “education”.

La Cabane Penchée, a small farm in La Somone (south), has already adhered to these principles for three years. “We doubled our production capacity compared to 2021, from 3 to 6 tons per year”explains to AFP Server Tyne, president of the company that produces oysters in the park.

Operation in La Somone, southern Senegal, which is developing oyster culture in oyster ponds, in March 2022.

But such feats are not self-evident. About Mamadou Bakhoum, President of Dasilami Sirer Villages Association (South), “The resource for oysters is at an alarming level. The salinity is too high in some places.”He explains, citing global warming as one of the reasons for this situation.

But Mr. Bakhum thinks so “If people take it seriously, the paths of oyster farming development are enormous”.

wreaths and pegs

Another challenge is to reconcile increasing productivity and preserving mangrove forests. Mangroves, a salinity-tolerant ecosystem characteristic of tropical coasts, is deteriorating in Senegal as elsewhere under the influence of overexploitation of its resources, development, aquaculture and rising water levels. However, it plays an important role as a barrier against erosion and flooding and as a carbon sink.

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Abdo Karim Sal, Head of the Jawal Vadioth Marine Reserve, helps oyster pickers in “Lay wreaths”. According to this process, the larvae grow on wires stretched between eucalyptus branches supported by pegs planted in the mud. Reapers no longer pick oysters by the roots. “This not only allows the mangroves to be left alone, but also allows the woman to earn more money”, he explains. But buying wreaths and wedges is not affordable for everyone in this poor area.

In March 2022, checking oysters growing on wreaths installed on piles in the Jowal Fadiout Marine Protected Area, in southern Senegal.  This device makes it possible to protect mangrove forests by stopping eating natural oysters directly from the roots of the mangroves.

Increased income also requires increased production of fresh oysters that reach wealthy tourist clients. According to industry professionals, a dozen fresh oysters from Senegal sells for between 4,500 and 6,000 CFA francs (6.80 and 9.10 euros), and one kilogram of cooked oysters, which requires at least three ponds of 15 dozen, is sold from 4,000 to 6,000. CFA franc while the average monthly Senegalese salary is 71,542 CFA francs (109 euros).

However, the infrastructure for storing and transporting fresh oysters is still scarce. Senegalese oyster farming modernization It depends mainly on financial and technical means.Mr. Diop says to the Ministry of Fisheries.

Le Monde and Agence France-Presse

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