Revitalising sponging – a key industry in The Bahamas

(Photo via the Inter-American Development Bank)
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(Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) A small community of about 900 people in Little harbour, in Mangrove Cay in The Bahamas, used to be home to a key driver of local economic growth–sponging. Little Harbour, which runs along a 1.5 million national marine park that is one of the Caribbean’s largest protected areas, is adjacent to the world’s third-largest barrier reef.

But Little Harbor’s well-being came under threat when the source of its vitality, fishing, began to decline. By 2011, exports of the area’s top product, sponges, had fallen in value to $540,000 from more than $1 million just a few years earlier. A fragmented supply chain and the lack of modern processing facilities and marketing know-how prevented local fishermen from charging much for the sponges, sharply limiting their income.

Local fishermen harvested sponges and sold them at a discount to exporters who then processed the goods and resold them at much higher prices. Locals produced no added value and they had no ties to customers abroad, which prevented them from improving customer relations, tweaking their products and services or increasing prices.

But all of that is changing thanks to help from IDB Lab, the IDB Group’s innovation laboratory, which is supporting a project aimed at strengthening the sponging business. IDB Lab is working on the project, dubbed Revitalization of the Sponging Industry, in conjunction with the Bahamas Agricultural Industrial Corporation (BAIC), and both have been offering training programs to help Bahamians develop more sustainable harvesting and better business practices.

The project has directly benefited 200 spongers and indirectly helped 440 beneficiaries in Mangrove Cay, on the island of Andros, the largest island in the Bahamian archipelago.

Read more at: Inter-American Development Bank

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