Sustainability

Social Impact

Fishing is the mainstay of livelihood for coastal communities, however due to over exploitation it is increasingly becoming unviable especially for small fishers. Seaweed cultivation provides a viable and sustainable alternative livelihood opportunity for small fishers. Fishing also has gender bias as it offers limited opportunity to the women-folk. Seaweed farming helps for the first time in bringing women into the mainstream of economic activity and empowers them to better the lifestyle and well-being of the whole family. According to the former Collector of Ramanathapuram only a part of the income of the fisherman actually becomes available to the family as a very large proportion is spent outside the home. On the other hand income earned by the women is spent on the family or becomes part of small savings hence the multiplier effect of this income on the social development is much higher. Today close to thousand families are earning their livelihood through seaweed cultivation. A large number of primary workers are women.

Role of AquAgri

AquAgri Processing Private Limited (APPL) provides necessary training, extends technical know-how and guarantees buy-back for the entire produce of the farmers at a pre-agreed price. APPL has also introduced new saving scheme (APPL-GIP-Growers’ Investment Program) and incentive scheme to improve their life status. The company is making all the efforts to help improve the status of the coastal communities by creating entrepreneurs and providing continuous technical support and supervision by its extended field team.

Role of Aquaculture Foundation of India

The seaweed farming in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu is vigorously being promoted by the Aquaculture Foundation of India (AFI) under the leadership of Dr. M. Sakthivel (President). Aquaculture foundation creates awareness and with support from AquAgri and government departments imparts training to the interested participants.

International Experience

Seaweed farming is being promoted by organisations such as FAO, International Finance Corporation, World Bank Group and is a subject matter of study of many researchers such as Brian Crawford of Coastal Resources Centre, University of Rhode Island. Aquaculture foundation creates awareness and with support from AquAgri and government departments imparts training to the interested participants; further it supports them in getting the subsidy support from the government departments such as DRDA, Department of Fisheries etc. and financing from various financial institutions and banks. In another development Aquaculture foundation of India is tying up with Colleges and universities to scale up this activity. AFI along with MS University will identify the SHG women beneficiaries and coordinate the entire project; MS University would arrange training programs through AquAgri.

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 its role 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 acids profile coupled with the micronutrients can revolutionise the output of poultry and dairy if mixed as a bio-stimulant and a nutrient to the conventional feed.

Carbon-Sink

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 it plays a role in reducing acidification of ocean which is a potential threat to coral reef. National Academy of Agriculture Sciences (NAAS) reviewed the seaweed cultivation in depth in a seminar in which almost all the major algologists participated and at the end of it they released Policy Paper No. 22 (Download Now). In this paper they suggest that seaweed cultivation should be taken up on a mission mode as it can provide sustainable livelihood for the coastal communities. Extensive trials and research has found Tamil Nadu coastal waters, particularly, the seawaters of Ramanathapuram, Tuticorin, Tanjore and Pudukkottai as most suitable for the cultivation of Kappaphycus. Their 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 fisher folks and other community people living on the shore earn their livelihood mainly through fishing activities and by doing wild collection of naturally grown 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 particularly women, who before this did not have any stable source of income and employment opportunity. The international scientists who had reviewed the coast line and visited the cultivation sites have opined 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. They collect the washed ashore wastes like plastics, diesel cans, bottles etc, and put them in dust-bin to remove 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 (core map II) 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.

References