November 29, 2020

Gender and The Seaweed Farming Value Chain- India

Seaweed farming is practiced in the districts of Ramanathapuram, Pudukottai, Thanjavur and Tuticorin in the State of Tamil Nadu, South India. The annual production of farmed seaweed from the state is 4,000 t. The species largely cultivated are Kaphaphycusalverizi and Gracilariaedulis. A pilot survey among seaweed growers of Tamil Nadu revealed that there are 600 families in Ramanathapuram district and 400 families in Tuticorin and Pudukottai district engaged in seaweed cultivation using rafts. These rafts are owned by individuals, by groups as well as by families.

A survey was undertaken during February-March 2019 among the seaweed growers of Ramanathapuram district, Tamil Nadu, India. The study was initiated among 650 seaweed farmers comprising both men and women engaged in the sector. Seaweed farming was observed in the locations of Munaicadu, Thangachimadam, Akkalmadam, and Rameswaram. Seaweed farming, being a family oriented enterprise, has the involvement of both men and women in various stages of the farming process. A raft is managed by 1 male member and 2 female members of the family. It could be observed during the course of the study that a single family could be in possession of as many as 25-45 rafts. Women in seaweed farming belong to the age group of 30-50 years. At present there are 5,000 rafts under seaweed culture in this district. The seaweed rafts are anchored at a depth of 1-1/2 meters in the water and at a distance of 500 meters-1 km from the shore, making it easily maneuverable for the women folk who are actively involved in seeding of ropes, maintenance of the rafts as well as harvesting and drying of the raw material. Menfolk are involved in the fabrication of rafts, installation of rafts at sea, maintenance of rafts as well as in harvesting of the produce.

Seaweed rafts are square shaped and 12x 12 feet in size. A single raft harboursaround 20 ropes and an average raft yields 300 Kg on harvest. The economic holding period is 45 days. Three such harvests are taken in a year. Out of 300 kg of harvested material, 230 kg is sold either as dry/fresh to processing companies such as Aqua Agri, Aqua Foundation of India and SNAP and 70 kg is retained as seeding material. On an average, a woman laborer in seaweed farming earns Rs. 200 for 4 hours of labour/day, an average monthly income of Rs. 6,000 and a yearly income of Rs. 42,000/year, i.e. $591. Both men and women command equal wages for the same hours of work. As a family owned enterprise, the earnings from seaweed farming are as high as Rs. 21,300/month, i.e. $300.