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April 8, 2012

CLIMATE CHANGE AND SEAWEED FARMING

by Erin Wilkinson Hartung

Climate change is a major concern for marine academics, politicians, NGOs and conservationists alike in Tanzania and on Zanzibar. Recently, USAID staff visited some of their small business project sites while exploring this issue.

The western part of Zanzibar at Jambiani has seen major coastal erosion in the past few years. Some of this seems to be natural where the waves have broken through the coral reef acting as a natural beach barrier; but the speed and severity has been contributed to extremes in climate conditions impacting the marine ecosystems, livelihood development and available beachfront. Many people have abandoned their properties, are attempting barrier methods or houses are up for sale.

On this beach are multiple seaweed farming communities struggling to find locations to dry their products near the beach.

This is also one of the most breathtaking beaches on Zanzibar full of hotels expanding across the remaining open space claiming territory shared with these communities. Ecotourism is a good thing for Zanzibar, I think overall, but growth must be methodical and sustainable. In the meantime, the waves keep crashing and the tides rise.

A local Swedish NGO is teaching seaweed soap production with nice package design targeting beach hotels. They are trying to bridge the gap between the hospitality industry and local beach community. 

They work directly with community members in an educational center which looks nice but needs foot traffic. I understand there are several large companies that determine the market price for seaweed but these products fall into a different category. I have visited several high-end hotels and I have not seen this soap yet. I hope they make it.

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