Incomes for hundreds of seaweed farmers will be improved and globally important coastal ecosystems will be restored with a new and innovative partnership in Tanzania between The Nature Conservancy and Cargill. The program will be supported by a local partner, C-Weed Corporation, and conducted in collaboration with the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar and the people of Zanzibar.
Seaweed farming is one of Zanzibar’s largest export businesses, employing more than 25,000 people, 80 percent of whom are women. International buyers predict increased demand for seaweed since it is a raw material used in a wide range of increasingly popular products as diverse as confectionary, yogurts, and cosmetics. When done sustainably, seaweed aquaculture also provides co-benefits to the planet, including improved water quality and conservation of wildlife habitats.
But warming oceans due to climate change, impacts of coastal development, limited aquaculture knowledge and poor seed stocks are combining to make it harder for farmers to sustainably and cost effectively keep up their yields and maintain their livelihoods through seaweed farming.
That’s driving them to use inappropriate farming practices that amplify negative impacts to the fragile marine environments that their businesses need to thrive, which have already been under threat by a broad suite of human activities.
The pilot program announced today will work with farmers in Pemba and Unguja Islands in the Zanzibar archipelago in the Indian Ocean. Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region of the United Republic of Tanzania with its own devolved government. This partnership between The Nature Conservancy, Cargill, and C-Weed Corporation, supports the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar and the people of Zanzibar and aims to increase seaweed farming’s productivity, environmental performance, improve livelihoods, and empower women.
Sada Himidi Selemani, a seaweed farmer from Tumbe, one of the three villages in northern Pemba where the program will be piloted, said: “I am happy to participate in the new training program. Local women seaweed farmers are excited to gain insight into how to improve our seaweed production, so we can earn more for our families but also look after our environment.”
The program will first work together with farmers to co-develop a locally appropriate set of voluntary industry best practices. In the first year of the project, The Nature Conservancy will train more than 100 farmers on how best to site, design, and manage their farms and to increase yields while also reducing farming impacts such as impacts to seagrass, mangrove areas, and marine debris on beaches and waterways.
Working with seaweed farming communities, it will identify, train and mentor individuals to be ‘village implementers’ to mentor other farmers, build much-needed local capacity, and ensure farmers involved will have a local specialist to consult throughout the process.
Dr. Omar A. Amir, deputy principle secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources, Livestock and Fisheries for the Government of Zanzibar, said: “Seaweed farming is a major contributor to our economy, and the industry has become increasingly important by bringing foreign revenue into Zanzibar. This new project’s support to improve seaweed farming is very timely. We envision it will help address some of the key challenges facing our seaweed sector, and hope it will among others boost local incomes, improve food security, and help conserve the health of our marine environments sustainably.”
Longer term, collaborators will work with local research and government partners to identify specific scientific research needs to maintain healthy seaweed stock such as improved seaweed strains that thrive in a changing climate, and potential seaweed policy improvements, that could benefit both seaweed and the environment.
Robert Jones, global lead for Aquaculture for The Nature Conservancy, said: “Our research shows that when farmed well, seaweed has the unique ability to improve ocean health by providing benefits to water quality and providing habitat for wild fish, in addition to providing a low impact form of jobs in rural coastal communities. And we’ve determined that the marine areas in which seaweed farming is most established in Tanzania are among the highest priority locations to protect anywhere in Africa. Protecting these areas and educating and partnering with women seaweed farmers is a new and important focus of our conservation work in Tanzania and our work with the aquaculture sector globally. Through improved seaweed farming practices that better long-term farming yields and incomes, we aim to help coastal communities become more resilient to environmental change and economic shocks, such as impacts from COVID-19, which is affecting the local tourism sector.”
The program will help to ensure that volumes of sustainably farmed seaweed continue to grow for the industry and is traceable through the supply chain, to assure end producers of the social and environmental responsibility of seaweed production.
The program is part of a broader collaboration between The Nature Conservancy and Cargill aimed at ensuring sustainable food and agricultural production for future generations. Cargill and its Tanzanian supplier, C-Weed Corporation, are major purchasers of seaweed in Tanzania, supporting around 2,500 seaweed farmers.
With 30 years of experience in the seaweed business, Hamil Soud, general manager of C-Weed Corporation, said: “Sustainability is going far beyond just supplying seaweed to our customers. For us, sustainability also means ensuring long term partnership with our seaweed farmers and providing them adequate support and access to the right infrastructures, so they can improve efficiency while delivering high quality seaweed. To facilitate cultivation and harvesting process, we equip our farmers with boats, inputs such as ropes and technical guidance so they can perform better in their farms. We are proud to collaborate with The Nature Conservancy, Cargill and the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar in a project that will drive significant changes and improve considerably livelihoods of seaweed farmers on the long term.”
To help ensure a long-term sustainable red seaweed supply chain, in 2019 Cargill launched its Red Seaweed Promise. The program is designed to address sustainability challenges of harvesting and cultivating red seaweed, while enhancing producers’ livelihoods, supporting local communities, and conserving the marine environment.
Sebastien Jan, seaweed sourcing and sustainability project manager at Cargill, said: “The Red Seaweed Promise was launched a year ago with the ambition to enable seaweed producers and their communities to achieve better incomes and living standards in a way that will accelerate progress towards a sustainable and transparent global seaweed supply chain. This new partnership with The Nature Conservancy is one among various initiatives we are excited to announce today that will focus on empowering seaweed producers, improving production & harvesting practices, community support and strengthening partnerships, our four impact areas to deliver on our promise.