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Farming seaweed in Zanzibar

A farmer tending her seaweed crop off the island of Zanzibar. A farmer tending her seaweed crop off the island of Zanzibar.

Introduced to the island of Zanzibar in 1988, seaweed farming currently employs 25,000 people, mostly rural women, while upwards of 150,000 people benefit indirectly from the seaweed industry.

Zanzibar seaweed is in demand, but because cultivation takes place in deep water and is highly specialised, women farmers are unable to farm the higher-value variety .

Being locked into fixed-rate sales with agents also severely limits the value of their seaweed.  

Earning more money

Our project, which has now been completed, helped 2,500 women farmers in the north-east of Unguja Island to grow better-quality seaweed and make more money from their harvests. We were:

  • helping them to produce higher-quality seaweed by training them in deeper water cultivation techniques 
  • helping them add extra value to their harvests by developing processing facilities such drying the seaweed and extracting products such as agar and carageena that can be sold for extra income
  • supporting the women in forming groups that can make or access small loans to group members and also negotiate collectively to get better prices for their seaweed.

This was one of many pioneering projects working with women farmers across the region, made possible by Farm Africa’s Maendeleo Agricultural Enterprise Fund.