Tanzanian Fishing Villages Turn to Seaweed to Grow Incomes
Zanzibar, an archipelago of islands off Tanzania, is known for its rich melding of cultures, lush marine ecosystem and majestic coral reefs. But in the last decade, illegal fishing, climate change and an increasing population have taken a toll on Zanzibar’s ecosystem and communities. The size and catch of fish have become smaller. The profit margin of the fishing sector — driven by crude processing methods and informal markets — remains low. Some say Zanzibar is turning into a hotspot of poverty. Nassor Rajab, a fisherman since 1973, says that the number of fishermen has gone up three times, fish species have disappeared, and operating costs have increased. He would like advanced fishing gear, better training in deep water fishing and better access to markets. To take pressure off fishing in the ocean, local residents depend on an important alternative – farming seaweed, a highly demanded raw material for manufacturing medicine and cosmetics. Mohamed Rachid and Zawadi Masudi, seaweed farmers from Mwungoni village, request additional support to increase their productivity, access international markets and increase their revenues. The good news is that local community members like Ramla Talia are already working to conserve the Zanzibar coast and grow the local economy. This effort is supported by a new World Bank program called SWIOFish. Coastal communities are at the core of the program. They focus on tuna, prawns, small pelagics, octopus, reef fisheries and mariculture, such as seaweed farming. They also develop eco-tourism opportunities such as the Jozani Chwaka Park, known for its valuable mangroves and rare Colobus Monkeys. There is hope that good governance, ecotourism, and private sector investment will develop Zanzibar’s fisheries sector in the near future, and then transform livelihoods.