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Postcard from Zanzibar - Changing lives in paradise

21 December 2012

Postcard from Zanzibar - Changing lives in paradise

Karibu sana! Welcome to Zanzibar! Surveying the beautiful white beaches, glittering turquoise sea and the palm trees swaying in the breeze, the word ‘paradise’ immediately springs to mind.

But life here can be hard, with over half of the population living below the poverty line and high rates of malnutrition. Many women have very low levels of education with little or no control over the proceeds of their labor. As a result, they earn around three times less than the men here.

Farm Africa is working in partnership with a local organisation called SERTA to help women engaged in seaweed farming to grow more and to earn more. The women receive training on the best farming techniques, and are provided with lightweight boats to make harvesting quicker and easier. We are also helping the women identify alternative markets for their produce.

Seaweed soap

The harvested seaweed can be dried and sold directly to the export market, or can be ground into a powder to make seaweed soap. The women’s group from Matemwe village are keen to share their stories and explain what it takes to be a seaweed farmer.

As I step out into the ankle-deep warmth of the Indian Ocean with the sun shining down on my back, I begin to think that life as a seaweed farmer might not be so bad after all. But then the women start to describe their daily routine and I get a reality check.

Long walk to shore

Access to the seaweed crop is limited to a few hours a day when the tide is out and the sun is at its highest. The shallow waters stretch out as far as the eye can see. It’s a long, slow walk back to the shore, especially if you’re carrying a heavy load of seaweed on your back. And the shiny black sea urchins that I’ve been nervously stepping over aren’t just a threat to your feet – they’ll destroy your crop if they get the chance.

A member of the Matemwe women's seaweed farmers groupThe women from Matemwe are, despite the challenges, upbeat and optimistic about the future. Jalali Juma (pictured), who has been nominated by the members as group treasurer, explains that the project has filled them with hope. They feel confident that, with the right training and support, they will soon be able to produce more seaweed and earn enough to support their families.

To the seaweed farmers in Zanzibar, and to all of Farm Africa’s supporters, we wish you a very successful and prosperous 2013!

Find out more about our Zanzibar seaweed project