Social organization helps fishing communities to reap eco miracle seaweed
Seaweeds known as the wonder plants of the sea are increasingly being seen as potential game-changers in over 46 industries. Research says that this magical macroscopic alga could help counter food and energy crises and even provide medicinal solutions in the treatment of serious diseases. Seaweed may also serve as an alternative to single-use plastic and recent experiments have used it to create sustainable and biodegradable packaging for drinks and sauces. Seaweed is immensely economical to grow and can thrive without fertilizers, freshwater or active human intervention and even helps in the sequestration of carbon. Globally, countries are waking up to its potential and while seaweed production was worth around $12 billion in 2019, it is expected to grow to $26 billion by 2025.
While China and Indonesia have cornered 80 percent of the market share of seaweed, India faces a short supply of this natural resource due to pollution, heedless harvesting, and inadequate farming knowledge. India, with its 8,000-kilometre coastline, is now aiming to augment production to more than one million tons each year by 2025 and that is why social organisation Grow-Trees.com has stepped in to do its bit. After China, Korea, and Japan, India too is in the fray to benefit from seaweed cultivation and Grow-Trees.com is helping the country along this path with its expertise.
Bikrant Tiwary, CEO of Grow-Trees.com says, “We are providing equipment and expertise to fishing communities via a seaweed cultivation project in Munaikkadu, Mandapam Camp, Ramnad District, Tamil Nadu. This is being done to increase the income and self-sufficiency of the coastal community and subsequently, these women can train more marginalized communities to augment their earnings. We will of course fund the training and equipment and will leverage this experience to expand this module to other marginalized communities along the coast of India.”
The current beneficiaries of this project are over 750 people. Only 15 families right now own seaweed cultivation equipment while the others earn a meager livelihood. Empowering this community is the long-term goal of Grow-Trees.com.
Hanifa Begum from Munaikkadu is one such beneficiary. She says, “My husband is a fisherman but his income is not sufficient to sustain the family. Grow-Trees.com gave us two rafts and also taught us how to cultivate seaweed in an efficient way. We are hopeful that a good harvest will help us lead a better life and also educate our children. I thank Grow-Trees.com and the Annai Theresa Trust.”
Muthulakshmi is another resident of Munaikkadu who has now started seaweed cultivation thanks to Grow-Trees.com and the Annai Theresa Trust. She says, “My husband is an auto-driver and we were struggling to make two ends meet. Now two rafts from Grow-Trees.com have really helped us augment our income and educate our children comfortably. ”
As Tiwary says, “These livelihood issues can be solved very simply. A single bamboo raft priced at Rs 2000 can be used to plant over 70 kgs of seaweed seedlings and after 45 days, almost 230 kg of seaweed can be harvested and sold for Rs.65 to 70 per kg. Hence if a family has 40 to 45 such bamboo rafts, it can earn over Rs.800 per day and become self-sufficient. We call this scheme, the ‘Blue Revolution’ as it can help fishing communities to earn even when the fishing output becomes sporadic and unreliable. It can also help communities in need to supply much-in-demand raw material to industries manufacturing Agar, Agarose, Carrageenan, and Alginates.