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The Darwin Sherbro Oyster Project

This three year Darwin funded project is working with selected communities around the Sherbro River Estuary in Southern Province, Sierra Leone to offer alternative sustainable income earning opportunities for local women in mangrove oyster cultivation and sales.

For quick reference, the short URL for this page is For further information contact Dr. Francis Murray:

Darwin Initiative

Helping women in Sierra Leone find income opportunities from sustainable mangrove-oyster production and marketing

The Darwin Sherbro Oyster Project, funded through the Darwin Initiative (2014-2019) is working with remote communities in the Sherbro River Estuary in Southern Province, Sierra Leone to offer sustainable income for local women through the culture, processing and marketing of native mangrove oysters.

Mangroves here remain in relatively good condition. Like all mangroves, they act as a nursery for many species of finfish and shellfish and, as one of the most carbon-rich ecosystems on the planet, they also mitigate climate change. In 2012, the Sherbro Estuary was designated a “Marine Protected Area” (MPA). Enforcement of MPA regulations relies almost entirely on decentralised local management committees. The promotion of environmental stewardship by local communities relies on developing viable alternative livelihood options to offset MPA restrictions on harvesting of aquatic resources.

To address this challenge, the project brought together experts in social and environmental sciences, food technology and marketing from the Institute and partner Sierra Leone institutions Freetown and Njala Universities. Working closely with female oyster gatherers, the project explored ways to increase the value and profitability of their products and in turn incentivise more prudent management of the mangrove forests.

Project successes include more fuel-efficient processing techniques and raising awareness of the adverse effects of cutting the roots on which the oysters grow. Retail marketing opportunities for branded smoked oyster snacks  were co-created and implemented through a Sherbro women's mangrove oyster marketing cooperative. The 'Sherbro brand' was promoted through local radio and two ‘Bonthe Oyster Festivals’ staged in the district capital. UK commercial partner, the Whitstable Oyster Company, has committed funding to sustain the marketing cooperative, including staging a further five annual Bonthe Oyster Festivals.

We welcome any donations to support this on-going initiative. Furthers details are available at the following link:



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