By Charles Ogallo.
The number of Kenyan fishermen and farmers turning to seaweed farming at the Coast is alarming with scientists blaming it on adverse effects of climate change.
Experts believe that climate change was taking toll on villagers along the Kenyan Coast who have depended on the ocean for fishing for many decades as fish stocks continues to dwindle.
Ali Mwajafa is a fisherman at Shimoni area of Kwale county in Kenya. For the last 35 years Mr Mwajafa says that his family has lived comfortably from incomes he used to get from fishing.
|Farmers at Mkwiro Seaweed Farm , Wasini Island|
But things seem to have taken a different turn in Mwajafa’s life as trade he claims to have inherited from his late father Shehe Mbwana continues to fall apart.
The big catch he once boasted of during his hey days seems to be no more. The little income he now gets from fishing can not even help him afford a meal a day for his bloated family of 12.
“I am absolutely demoralized and ashamed of what is happening, the sea has become rough with no fish to catch , many fishermen are speeding long nights without getting enough catch” says the 52 year old Mwajafa as he heads to the sea to visit one of his new found seaweed farms.
The old man still remembers how his late father who died a decade ago from a long illness could catch large stocks of fish enough for the market and food in one night without going deeper in the sea “I was amazed by the big catch my father got that first day I joined him in the sea, things were good and fish were everywhere but now no more”.
Mr.Mwajafa is among tens of fishermen and farmers in Shimoni, Kwale county currently reverting to new fortunes as fish stocks continues to decline over time in the changing ocean..
|Seaweed Farm in Mkwiro, Wasini Island|
He joined many fishermen and farmers in the area who have shifted from fishing to potentially lucrative seaweed farming to turn around their fortunes.
He joined a group of than 100 fishermen and farmers from a fishing village of Kibuyuni in Kwale, who are now making a living from seaweed farming as he can now confirm with excitements.
“Since we started tending and growing seaweed, our lives have slowly changed for the better. I can now get good money,’’ said Mwajafa.
Experts say the shrink in fish captures in ocean is due to adverse effects of Climate change and scarcity of available natural resources in the coastal marine ecosystem.
They have also linked the sharp fall to the warming ocean water and turbulent conditions on the seabed because of more extreme weather.
Kenyan Researchers have estimated that seaweed farming could earn Kenya up to Kshs40 million a year, the commercial viability that has largely exposed a market potential that could also put the country at par with Tanzania and Zanzibar.
Those spearheading research work in Seaweed farming at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) in Mombasa say there is great potential in marine-based farming and that it could help rejuvenate thousands of lives of a large population especial at the Kenyan coast that depends on fisheries.
“Seaweed farming has been identified as a good prospect for social and economic development of coastal areas,” said KMFRI Programme Co-ordinator Betty Nyonje.
According to her seaweed farming would diversify livelihood opportunities for poor fishing communities whose source of income have seriously been put at risk by diminished capture fisheries.
Seaweed farms are generally located in shallow, calm and constantly warm waters, but only where the bottom is sandy.
Extracts of dried seaweed are used as thickeners, food and in the global pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.
The high fibre content of the seaweed acts as a soil conditioner and the mineral content as a fertiliser.
The first model seaweed farm was developed at Kibuyuni, a seaside village in Shimoni Kwale with 2,500 people. Other sites include Mkwiro in Wasini Island with 1,600 people, Funzi with 1,500 inhabitants and Gazi with 15,000 residents.