Far-Reaching Impacts in India
The cultivation of seaweed in India has far-reaching and positive social, economic and environmental impacts.
While fishing is the most common source of income in coastal villages of India, seaweed cultivation proides alternative livelihood to the coastal poor.
Social Elevation, Health and Welfare
Seaweed cultivation provides an average monthly income of Rs 6000-7500 per person, thus improving the social status of the farmers. Some cultivators have now been able to construct concrete houses while others now have television and access to important household items. It is estimated that 75% of seaweed cultivators now own mobile phones. Seaweed farmers now feed healthy food to their children and an afford to provide a quality education. While fishermen were doing fishing, they also used to engage their children for fishing, but after they chose seaweed cultivation as alternative income, they were able to put their children back in school. In addition, seaweed farmers are eating better, more nutritious food now. They have also developed the habit of saving their income for tomorrow’s betterment.
- Seaweed cultivation provides continued generation of employment opportunities, especially for women.
- The income earned by women will reach the family directly unlike in the case of men.
- Seaweed farming becomes one of the main rural development programs.
- 100% buy-back of the harvested crop is guaranteed. Hence, no need for any marketing concern.
- NGOs like Aquaculture Foundation of India and banks like State Bank of India are willing to provide necessary technical and financial assistance Insurance.
- The cultivators maintain their cultivation areas neat and clean. Hence, there is no threat to the environment.
Though Kappaphycus’s significance as a commercially important plant for its use as a gelling/binding agent is well known, thanks to the research work done by the Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI) a constituent of the CSIR system, a huge new dimension has been added and that is the role of Kappaphycus as a bio-nutrient for agriculture.
As it is reported in Indonesia, Kappaphycus is a wonder plant of the 20th century with numerous applications. Its SAP (extract) has naturally occurring growth hormones, micro nutrient and rich amino acids and is capable of improving crop yields of a variety of crops anywhere from 15 to 40%. This provides a first ever opportunity to the Indian farmers to have access to organic growth boosters at an affordable price.
The potential untapped wealth of sea nutrients can be transferred from sea to land through this cultivar. Its amino acid profile, coupled with the micronutrients, can revolutionise the output of poultry and dairy if mixed as a bio-stimulant and a nutrient source into the conventional feed.
The dry weight of Kappaphycus is 26% carbon and like all algae it sequesters carbon dioxide reducing the emission load. Soon, carbon credits could provide an additional source of revenue to the cultivators. At the same time, seaweed cultivation it plays a critical role in reducing acidification of ocean which is a potential threat to coral reefs.
The National Academy of Agriculture Sciences (NAAS) reviewed the seaweed cultivation in depth during a seminar in which almost all the major algologists participated and, at the end of it, they released Policy Paper No. 22. In this paper they suggest that seaweed cultivation should be taken up, large scale, as it can provide sustainable livelihood for the coastal communities.
Extensive trials and research studiens have found Tamil Nadu coastal waters, particularly, the seawaters of Ramanathapuram, Tuticorin, Tanjore and Pudukkottai, as most suitable for the cultivation of Kappaphycus. 18 years of scientific research in Tamil Nadu coastal waters has revealed no threat to water nutrition, other flora and fauna. An environment impact assessment carried out by CSMCRI pointed out no adverse impact.
Tamil Nadu has a length coastal area and covers 13 districts. The fishermen and other community people living on the shore earn their livelihood mainly through fishing activities and by doing wild collection of naturally-growing seaweeds. This wild collection often damages the substratum of the seabed and other organisms. The introduction of seaweed cultivation has helped preserve the environment while positively impacting the lives of the coastal communities, especially the women who, before this, did not have any stable source of income or employment opportunity. The international scientists who had reviewed the coast line and visited the cultivation sites have said that India will surpass the Kappaphycus cultivation of Philippines once full-fledged cultivation is undertaken in Tamil Nadu.
Community Stewardship for Habitat Preservation
A sense of stewardship has been developed among the seaweed farmers about keeping their cultivation site neat and clean. They have been well-trained on how to keep the seashore and the cultivation sites free from pollution as a part of cultivation protocol. As a part of being in the program, they collect the washed ashore wastes like plastics, diesel cans, bottles, etc., to be removed by local municipality, periodically.
The seaweed farms also provide food for herbivorous animals, enhancing the ecosystem. Due to vegetative propagation method adopted in this seaweed farming, there is no threat to the other algae and sea-living animals, fish etc. Since seaweed cultivation has created an alternative livelihood for the fishers while eradicating activities like destructive fishing and indiscriminate harvesting of commercially important naturally occurring weeds thus preserving the natural habitat.
International Experience and Strategies
International experience suggests that seaweed cultivation has extensively been used as a method of preserving the coastal environment and the coral reefs and as an activity it has been vigorously promoted by international aid and assistance institutions.
In Indonesia, coral reef rehabilitation and management programme phayze-2 was undertaken by the government of Indonesia with the support from external donors like Asian Development Bank, World Bank, Global Environment Facility and Australian Assistance. To learn more about this or any other program, please Contact Us.