A reconnaissance visit to the seaweed farm sites was undertaken in March to understand the dynamics of the farming communities, introduce the project’s goals and action plan to the target groups and assess their books of records.
The different stakeholders and their roles in the seaweed value chain at Kibuyuni was explained by the farmer’s chairperson. The stakeholders included local NGOs, the County Government of Kwale, the National Government through Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, the State Department for Fisheries, Aquaculture and the Blue Economy, the Blue Economy Implementation Standing Committee, and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization. The support to farmers from various stakeholders has been through interventions in the form of provision of practical skills for establishment and monitoring of farms, provision of farm implements, post-harvest handling and processing, and value addition.
An account of the present status of seaweed farming in Kibuyuni was given. Farmers had sold 12 tonnes in November 2019 but there has been decline in production since December 2019 owing to freshwater input due to prolonged rainfall experienced in the region. Increasing sea surface temperatures was also identified as a challenge leading to stunted growth and low production. Technological change such as venturing into offshore systems such as floating rafts and longline was proposed as a solution to this although it comes with its disadvantage of deeper waters where the chances for women farmers to participate are minimal.
The scoping exercise also revealed that women still dominate the seaweed farming value chain boasting almost 90%of the membership. Women are considered to have important roles in Kibuyuni and their full participation is reflected in the improvement of livelihoods in the village with better houses being built and children accessing formal education as a result of income from seaweed farming. This has encouraged men to join with some combining forces and taking it up as a household venture. Families with available labour have exhibited higher production. Any intervention, be it in the value chain or at policy level should work towards cementing the participation of women as this model has proved to be effective in this farming site.
Scoping was also done in other farming villages despite not being the main subject of the present project activities. This was deemed necessary as they are regarded as important stakeholders and they would be directly affected by the project output. The noticeable challenge that some of the women face is the fact that they are single mothers or unmarried and solely depend on seaweed farming as an income source. Therefore, they sometimes find it difficult to provide for their families when they don’t immediately sell their produce and this demoralizes them.
Below is a detailed account of group profiles for the different farming sites.
Kibuyuni Seaweed Cooperative
The group was formed in 2014 as a self-help group that recently (2019 July) evolved into a cooperative with 113 members, 101 women and 12 men. This move was in line with the current changes in the market that necessitates better positioning in setting and increasing bargaining power of the farmers. They are cohesive and well organized with farming being done individually.
However poor record keeping was still evident with staggered records over some months (e.g. (i) membership records need to be updated, (ii) production records from June 2019 to 2020 where partial records were maintained). Much donor funding had been channelled through the group resulting in overreliance on funding from donors and lack of transp