Mtwara. Seaweed growers have pleaded with the government to assist them in the search for reliable markets of their produce, which is increasingly playing an important role in creating jobs for women.
A seaweed plant that grows in the sea and sea shores has many advantages including being used for making washing detergents, cooking oils, juice, chocolates and other products.
The plant, which appears in different colours, including green, red and black is largely grown by residents, mostly women, living near the sea shores.
It is estimated that 50 percent of women across the world engage in doing formal jobs compared to 75 percent of men.
However, most jobs done by women are said to be of low status that earn them meagre incomes, despite huge efforts being made to break the glass ceiling against them so that they can also control the economy, hold top positions in governments and in deferent organisations while their economic, social, cultural and political rights are protected.
In Mkungu and Naumbu villages, Mtwara District, there are 17 groups of growers of seaweed, whose desire has been to get the reliable market for the product.
Ms Bimkubwa Abdallah, a seaweed farmer from the Juhudi Group in Mkungu Village, says despite spending most of their time and using a lot of energy in growing the crop, they get meagre incomes in return.
According to her, they have tried their best to add value to the crop by producing different products such as those mentioned above, but finding a reliable market has been their huge cry.
“When we started growing the crop, we had a buyer who was providing us with deferent materials including ropes and he was buying our produce at the price of his choice.
“However, nowadays the price has gone down and our buyer no longer brings those materials to us, leaving us in a difficult situation. We need to promote ourselves so that we can get more customers of washing detergents and cooking oil.”
“I hope the government can hear our cry and support us as we do a lot of work in growing this crop, but we have no reliable market.
“We fail to increase its production because of the difficult situation we are facing,” says Ms Abdallah.
Asia Seleman, a grower of the crop from Mkungu Village, expressed optimism of making their business grow without the government help by saying that they buy a rope at Sh220 from a shop and sell a kilo of harvested seaweed at Sh600.
“I got a customer, to whom I sold 200 kilos of harvested seaweed at Sh700 each and when our regular buyer heard of this crop, he boycotted to buy my harvested product.
“So, we pray that this farming is promoted so that we can get more customers to make us get out of this miserable situation,” says Ms Seleman. There are two types of seaweeds, namely the Cottoni family that is used as a remedy drink after being boiled. It is also used as a cake and mixed with food. The other is Spinazamu, which is used to make body lotion, soap and cooking oils, says Sophia Namoya, a seaweed farmer from Naumbu village.
“You can get 15 bundles of harvested seaweed, but it is hard to even earn Sh100,000. A price of Sh500 per kilo hurts us deeply.
“So, we ask the government to help us so that we can get more buyers because we believe that the seaweed we are growing can profitably help us to a large,” said Ms Namoya.
For his part, Mustapha Kwiyunga, coordinator of a non-governmental organization, Mtwara Society Against Poverty (Msoapo), says until now they have four groups of growers of the crop.
He says they impart capacity-building to the groups so that they can be in a good position of meeting different financial institutions for loans and for other opportunities.
According to Mr Kwiyunga, Msoapo distributes the product for sale to different parts of the world.
“This capacity building training will make it easier for us to get customers outside the country and also make us know that our product can be supplied to different countries across the world,” said Kwiyunga.
Mr Benedict Ernest, the DHL marketing officer, says they offer training to growers of the seaweed crop for improving its quality and using his firm when the crop has reached the stage of being transported outside the country.
For her part, the fisheries officer of Mtwara District Council, Ms Habiba Athumani, says there are two wards of Nalingu and Naumbu in the district. She says the wards have groups that grow the seaweed, but most of the farmers there are independent.
“Those groups have already been provided with loans through the district council. However, the main challenge has been its production that is becoming low due to the current cold weather conditions,” says Ms Athumani.
“During the months of June and July most seaweeds break up and destroyed, but during the hot season the crop grows well as I’m also a grower in Nalingu, where I physically face the challenge,” she says.