Seaweed farming is a key source of income for many rural women on the island of Zanzibar, and the export of their hard earned produce is an important national industry, with the resulting food, cosmetics and medicines reaching a range of countries, including China, Korea, Vietnam, Denmark, Spain, France and USA.
At low tide, the beach is spattered with sticks, seaweed and brightly attired local women. The colours of the traditional kanjis, worn as both headgear and clothing, suggest a more cheerful and easygoing job than this is in reality. Nimble fingers tie bundle after bundle of seaweed seedlings to strands of string, then attach that string to a stick and forcibly plunge it deep into the sand. My own attempts revealed that I don’t have the required levels of either patience or strength. As the tide rises, the women head to land to process their gathered produce, whilst the newly planted greenery submerges to grow beneath the incoming seawater.
Sadly, climate change is taking its toll on this industry. Increasing temperatures mean that the seaweed is struggling to grow in its ever warming bath water and more planting is required to produce the same amount of usable seaweed. Adaptations are being made, with floating strings in deeper, cooler, water but that requires new skills and equipment, such as boats and swimming. The positive news is that organisations such as Farm Africa are supporting these farmers with training in deep water and production of new products.
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 1 March 2018
Posted as part of Cee’s B&W Challenge