Feature: Kenya's coastal communities embrace seaweed farming amid livelihood transformation

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KWALE, Kenya, July 4 (Xinhua) -- It is early morning on Kenya's Indian Ocean coastline, and Fatuma Aisha is attaching pieces of seaweed to rope lines tied end to end to sticks anchored on the shallow ocean bed about 20 meters apart.

Aisha, along with 30 other members of the Tumbe Seaweed Farmers Group in the coastal county of Kwale, is taking advantage of the low tide to plant their seedlings, which will float in the sea for the next few weeks.

The 31-year-old mother of three has been engaged in seaweed farming for the past year and has no regrets so far. "Seaweed cultivation requires little in terms of inputs and takes a short time to mature," Aisha told Xinhua Thursday. She typically plants seaweed seedlings that weigh about 100 grams and grow to a weight of five kg, ready to be harvested in about 45 days.

Aisha decided to venture into seaweed farming after her husband, a fisherman, experienced reduced incomes due to declining fish stocks in the Indian Ocean.

Betty Mukami, a fisheries officer at the state-owned Kenya Fisheries Service, said that years of overfishing along the Indian Ocean shoreline have rendered small-scale fishing unprofitable.

Coastal communities need alternative sources of income to make ends meet, Mukami said. She noted that seaweed farming has emerged as a viable source of revenue for households living next to the coastline because it thrives even with limited resources.

The Tumbe Seaweed Farmers Group is a beneficiary of the Kenya Marine Fisheries and Socioeconomic Development (KEMFSED) project, which aims to support coastal communities in boosting their livelihoods. The group received a grant of about 2.7 million Kenyan shillings (about 21,000 U.S. dollars) to upscale their production through modern technology.

Rama Mwinyi Madzumba, the chairman of the Tumbe Seaweed Farmers Group, said the financial assistance helped them acquire a fiberglass boat and safety gear to transport seaweed for onshore processing.

To boost their incomes, the group members decided to pursue value addition for their seaweed produce. They dry harvested seaweed, crush it into powder form, and use it as an ingredient for shampoo and soaps. Moreover, the members bake wheat products such as bread, which are blended with seaweed powder that has a high demand in the local market.

Mariam Juma, another member of the group, said her entry into seaweed farming has improved her fortunes. The 33-year-old mother of four said that seaweed farming provides her with a regular income, as cultural limitations prevented her from fishing in the Indian Ocean.

"I am now able to augment my husband's income in catering to the needs of my household," Juma said. Enditem

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