Zanzibar Emerges as Africa’s Leading Seaweed Producer, Thanks to Innovative Government Strategies

President Dr. Hussein Mwinyi has stated that Zanzibar is the leading country in seaweed production in Africa, with production increasing by more than 12,594 tons in the year 2021/22, despite competition from major global producers such as China, the Philippines, Indonesia, and others.

President Dr. Mwinyi attributes all the achievements to the implementation of policies and strategies for the blue economy, where the government has formulated new policies for the blue economy, including the production of marine products such as seaweed.

Additionally, the government, through the Ministry of Blue Economy and Fisheries, has invested significantly in assisting farmers and entrepreneurs in the seaweed sector, numbering about 5,000 in Zanzibar and Pemba. Special boats have been provided to enable them to go into deeper waters for the cultivation of high-quality seaweed seeds and to avoid the effects of climate change.

Due to the significant efforts made by the Zanzibar Revolutionary Government (SMZ), the lives of seaweed farmers have started to improve, especially after the government increased the price of the seaweed from Sh 600 to Sh 1,000 for thin seaweed known as Spinosum. Moreover, the price of thick seaweed (Cottonii) has increased from Sh 1,700 to Sh 2,100.

The improvement in prices is a result of various strategies to enhance seaweed farming formulated by the Zanzibar Revolutionary Government, including the establishment of a Government Seaweed Company. The company aims to add value to the seaweed product and increase the income of seaweed farmers, many of whom are marginalized citizens.

Other strategies include enabling farmers to cultivate seaweed in deeper waters to avoid the adverse effects of climate change on seaweed grown in shallow waters.

“Seaweed farmers in the islands have been complaining about the low returns from seaweed farming, attributing it to selling their products at low prices that do not match the financial and physical investment in production. That’s why we have introduced strategies to increase the price of seaweed and ensure a stable market,” says Khadija Mohammed Hija, Public Relations Officer at the Ministry of Trade and Industry of Zanzibar, in an interview.

Seaweed is used as a health supplement in the human body due to its minerals and nutrients. It is also used in cosmetics and agriculture as fertilizer. The Zanzibar Revolutionary Government has implemented significant strategies to make seaweed farming more productive.

Even the United Nations recognizes the potential of seaweed in addressing the challenges of climate change, such as frequent droughts and floods that make it difficult to produce enough food. Seaweed has the potential to help feed the growing global population, is beneficial for health and the environment, and can have a reliable market if properly prepared.

Recognizing its importance, the Ministry of Trade and Industry of Zanzibar is collaborating with other ministries to ensure that seaweed becomes more productive for farmers with a guaranteed market after an increase in production, through the establishment of seaweed processing industries.

Another government strategy is to ensure efficiency by empowering entrepreneurs involved in seaweed product processing. The Small and Medium Industries Development Agency (SMIDA) of the ministry is providing training to entrepreneurs involved in seaweed product processing to produce high-quality and standardized products.

“You cannot have a good market if you don’t have processing, and this is also achievable through training and investment in machinery. Through SMIDA, for example, in Pujini, Pemba, machines for making soap and grinding spices have been provided for entrepreneurs. This is part of ensuring that even ordinary entrepreneurs produce high-quality products,” says Khadija in the interview.

According to Khadija, these machines are used to train entrepreneurs in the production of soap and spices, contributing to the production of high-quality products even by ordinary entrepreneurs.

The Zanzibar Seaweed Company states that the seaweed factory being built has the capacity to produce a total of 30,000 tons per year. Its presence is expected to motivate farmers to enhance seaweed farming as it will increase the value of processing and the market price of seaweed.

Minister of Trade and Industry, Omar Said Shaaban, encourages them to plan more, including strengthening their farms to earn more income. He emphasizes that the construction of the factory directly enhances seaweed farming, adding value for farmers to earn higher income.

“The construction of this factory is a message to seaweed farmers to intensify their efforts in improving seaweed farming to produce more seaweed that can go to the factory and be processed into various products,” he says.

As Zanzibar celebrates the 60th anniversary of the revolution and continues to implement various seaweed programs in Unguja and Pemba to support and uplift the efforts of women, the Ministry of Industry and Trade states that due to President Mwinyi’s directives and policy implementation, seaweed farming will undoubtedly thrive, and citizens will escape poverty.

Vice President of Zanzibar, Hemed Suleiman Abdullah, speaking in Chamanangwe, North Pemba during a recent visit to inspect the construction of the factory, which will be inaugurated during the 60th-anniversary celebrations, states that it is the goal of the Zanzibar Revolutionary Government (SMZ) to see significant progress in seaweed farming, serving as a savior for farmers, 90% of whom are women.

Said Ali M’barouk is the Coordinator of the opposition party ACT-Wazalendo on Pemba Island, who has also served as the Minister of Agriculture in Zanzibar. Despite believing that the factory can alleviate some challenges facing seaweed farming in Zanzibar, M’barouk advises the government to go beyond that by conducting in-depth research on seaweed farming and implementing robust policies to guide it.

“There is a need for in-depth research on seaweed production in Zanzibar,” says M’barouk. “Research that will identify the most suitable areas for this farming. What type of seaweed thrives well in Zanzibar? What kind of seeds can give us good seaweed, and where can these seeds be obtained and how?”

According to M’barouk, currently, seaweed farmers in Zanzibar are left to fend for themselves in finding answers to these questions, and thus he advises the government to intervene.

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