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Seaweed Cultivation Boosts Fishermen's Income

Economics +1 more

INDIA - Growing revenues from seaweed a vital binding ingredient in processed foods and consumer productshas fired the imagination of planners who oversee welfare schemes in coastal areas.

The Tamil Nadu government has now sanctioned 30 million rupess (INR) to the fisheries department for training fishermen in seaweed cultivation and for providing necessary materials at a subsidised rate. Soon, cultivation will be extended further down along the eastern coast to provide jobs in more districts, especially to women, according to Times of India.

Dr M. Sakthivel, president of Aqua Culture Foundation, an NGO that promotes use of aquaculture in India, said: "Seaweed cultivation in Tamil Nadu is largely confined to self-help groups (SHGs) in fishing communities that function with the aid of government subsidy. So far, the cultivation has mainly been in Ramanathapuram in the Palk Strait area and some parts of Tuticorin, Pudukottai and Thanjavur. But with the market for seaweed expanding, government has decided to extend the training and subsidy programme further along the Tamil Nadu coast upto Point Calimere in Nagapattinam district."

Cultivation of seaweed is rapidly developing as a source of alternate income for fisherfolk. According to Abhiram Seth, managing director of AquaAgri Processing Pvt Ltd, a company that processes and exports dried seaweed, income earned from cultivation of seaweed can be equal or even more than the amount earned through fishing.

He said: "Currently, a person can earn up to INR500 a day by cultivating and harvesting seaweed. Depending on how many days of work is put in, a cultivator can earn atleast INR10,000 15,000 per month."

The immediate social impact has been on empowering women in fishing communities, helping them supplement meagre family earnings. In several cases, the extra income has provided the means to overcome the abusive and destructive effects of alcoholism among male members in the family.

Dr Sakthivel added: "In Ramanathapuram, majority of the cultivation is done by women in fishing community. We find that this added income has led to better standards of living among the fisherfolk. Altogether, around 1,000 persons are employed here through SHGs."

Times of India reports that there have been some concerns about the environmental impact of introducing seaweed since it is not a native species but growers say "it's a fairly non-invasive process" and does not spread out over a wide area. Besides, the algae acts as an effective carbon sink since it absorbs the acidic content in water created by carbon dioxide in the air.