December 15, 2021


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.

i.         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 transparency. This should be addressed to ensure sustainability.

ii.        NyumbaSita Seaweed Farmers

The group consists of 38 members of whom 28 are women and the rest are men. The group boasts a structured leadership that maintains the cohesiveness of the members with farming being done as a group venture with well-articulated formulae of sharing income from the farm’s yields. However, like other groups, poor record keeping was still evident.

Additionally, the group’s farms lie within an area where fresh water intrusion is a major problem and hence they are calling for relocation of the farms; this is currently being done with support from C-Weed Corporation Limited-Kenya. The group is undertaking ongoing nursery establishment after most of their seedling was lost during the prolonged rainfall in December 2019.

iii.        Mkwiro seaweed farmers

The group consists of 80 members of whom the majority (74) are women and the rest are men. The women have the zeal to work despite the many challenges they encounter in their day to day lives and low levels of education.

The group’s registration is currently expired. Elections have not been conducted for the past six years and hence it has no recognizable office bearers.

The area has proved to have the best site in terms of its location and viability in seaweed production and it has a great potential. However, there exists conflicts within the group and between the group and the main seaweed buyer (C-Weed Corporation). A new entrant in the market collects seaweed from the farmers even though he has hardly supplied any inputs. This breaches the farmers’ contract with C-Weed Corporation Limited Kenya that had been supplying inputs in return for better production from the farmers.

The group leadership is also volatile and hence this needs to be addressed to promote cohesion in the undertaking. Men are dominant and hence set all rules influencing women’s engagement, and hence have an influence on the entire seaweed value-chain, dictating mobilization of farmers, farm establishment and negotiating prices with buyers.

iv.        Mwazaro Seaweed Farmers

The group consists of 90 members; 60 old farmers and 30 new entrants.

The group also boosts of a structured leadership that maintains the cohesiveness of the members with farming being undertaken as an individual venture. Women are supported and helped by their husbands; this gives a clear view of sustainability where families take up the initiative. There is also a lot of cohesion within the various groups that operate in the area with a strong backing from the village leadership.

v.         Tumbe

The group has 55 members of whom 6 are men while the rest are women. They have an organized management structure that also has a committee to oversee various aspects of the group. They portrayed cohesion as a group.


Based on the desk study, a preliminary analysis of the history of farming and current production status, market trends, stakeholder and institutional analysis is presented below.

Production status

Exploring the potential of seaweed mariculture along the Kenyan coast started in the early 1990s (Yarish and Wamukoya 1990). According to this study, there existed significant seed populations of Gelidium, Gelidiella, Gelidiopsis, Pterocladia that could produce high quality agar. Gracilaria, appeared to be widely distributed along the Kenyan coast and its culture would highly benefit the agar industry. Trials for cultivation of Gracilaria salicornia for commercial agar extraction are

ongoing at the South coast of Kenya (Ollando et al. 2019). According to Yarish and Wamukoya, (1990), Eucheuma, Kappaphycus, Halymenia and Hypnea would be the major sources of carrageenan considering their abundance but their culture was suggested to increase their crop. Similar observation was made by (Bolton et al. 2007). This laid the basis for seaweed mariculture along the Kenyan coast which has mainly revolved two species: Eucheuma denticulatum and Kappaphycus alvarezii (Wakibia et al. 2011). The latter has however been abandoned due to its susceptibility to changing sea surface temperatures and grazing which leads to diseases such as ice-ice and crop loss.

Initial culture trials investigating growth rates of the two species (Wakibia et al., 2006a), and seasonal changes in carrageenan yield and gelling properties (Wakibia et al., 2006b) revealed their potential as mariculture species on the south coast of Kenya. Seaweed mariculture was further identified as an alternative livelihood source for the marginalized coastal communities (Wakibia et al. 2011). Since the early 2010s, seaweed farming has been ongoing in coastal villages of Kibuyuni, Gazi, Mkwiro, and Funzi and this has now expanded into other villages such as NyumbaSita, and Tumbe with proposed expansion to other suitable areas.

The off-bottom method is the common culture technique, despite trials of other methods such as longlines and floating rafts having been documented. Adoption of longlines and floating rafts has been slow because they are deployed in the deeper waters and their maintenance requires diving and snorkelling skills. This makes it hard for more than 80% of farmers who are women and who are inclined to working in the shallow inter-tidal area. Farms are typically owned by households and they comprise of 6 blocks each having 50 ropes. Each farm measures 1,500m² with a total of 300 ropes onto which seedlings are tied. Average annual production in Kibuyuniis is approximately 70 tonnes with a total income of

$17,500, but projections indicate that this will increase considering the Government’s initiative to upscale production

through the Blue Economy Implementation Standing Committee intervention.

Market trends and players

A stable market for dry seaweed has been a major challenge in Kenya. The sector has experienced change in market outlets with subsequent changes in price. There has been a great influence from Zanzibar considering the close relationship between the two markets with farmers mostly selling to common buyers. The market for dried seaweed produced in Kenya has undergone change since the introduction in the country. This has evolved from solely depending on sale of dried seaweeds to companies which later exported to Europe and Asia for processing, to, in recent years, the development of value-added products targeting the local market. In the early years, farmers sold to middlemen, mostly in Zanzibar, who later sold to exporting companies. The price at this point ranged between$0.09-0.25. Despite being a reflective of the global prices, this amount was considered to be relatively low by the farming communities and was one of the challenges limiting full uptake of the initiative by the coastal people. Further analysis of the market dynamics revealed that the middlemen were also inconsistent in their purchasing and farmers had to store their seaweeds for long periods with the hope of selling, having implications for the quality of the produce.

Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) has been on the forefront of ensuring continuity and development of seaweed mariculture in the country. This ranges from offering technical knowledge in farm establishment to engaging different companies and investors and bringing them on-board as a market outlet. Between 2014 and 2018, East Africa Seaweed Ltd. entered the seaweed market in Kenya and bought dried seaweeds at an improved price of $0.3 for spinosum seaweed and $0.4 for cottonii (KMFRI 2015).The company however exited the market shortly thereafter and this called for collaboration from different players to ensure continued production and improvement of livelihoods. As revealed in the stakeholder analysis, the intervention of KMFRI, the Government of Kenya through the Blue Economy Implementation Committee, Kenya Industrial Research Development Institute (KIRDI) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization partnered to improve the post-harvest processing through design and fabrication of drying facility and soap making plants. The training of farmers on production of value-added products from seaweeds was facilitated initially by FAO and later by KIRDI who improved the quality of the original soap and developed other cosmetic products for the Kibuyuni group. These interventions were geared towards product diversification to minimize dependence on selling dried seaweeds as the sole farm product. The seaweed-based soap later was certified by the Kenya Bureau of Standards. Its production targets the local market. Soap production is a joint activity between men and women, with men handling machinery and women working on the initial stages of ingredient mixing.

Seaweed farmers are presently selling to C-weed Corporation Ltd-Kenya at $0.25 apart from that product they use for making soaps and shampoos. With empowerment in entrepreneurship skills, Kibuyuni Seaweed Famers (KISEFA) have established a co-operative which acts as the bridge between farmers and the purchasing company by buying seaweeds

from farmers at a lower price and later selling it to the company, with the profits going to their welfare kitty. Farmers can therefore immediately sell to the co-operative and avoid the waiting time as experienced before with the exporting companies. Through this, women who are a majority, are able to provide food for their families and take care of other household needs such as healthcare.

Government policies and legal frameworks that support development of the seaweed Industry

Coastal and marine ecosystems are composed of multiple interacting systems – maritime, terrestrial and aquatic and include the islands and the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The policy implication is that their future competitiveness and well-being depend heavily on improving the efficiency of natural resource use. This therefore demands the identification of development enablers which can help to define goals and means of implementation. Such “enablers” include set arrangements within existing system that provide opportune conditions for innovation and technology in sustainable use of resources.

Constitution of Kenya (2010): Chapter 5, Article 69 recognizes utilization of the environment and natural resources for the benefit of the people of Kenya ; this is in support of Chapter 4, article 19 (2) that states that “the purpose of recognising and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms is to preserve the dignity of individuals and communities and to promote social justice and the realisation of the potential of all human beings”. Hence seaweed farming is providing for incomes that aid in preserving dignity of communities through improved standard of living.

‘Big Four’ Agenda: The Big Four Agenda is the country’s major transformation blueprint being implemented within five years from 2017-2022. The Big Four Agenda items are: Food security, manufacturing, affordable universal health care and affordable housing.

In line with this, the Government is currently facilitating the ease of doing business as this will encourage companies to invest in Kenya, which will boost foreign investment and create employment. Additionally, the Government is also sourcing for new global markets for Kenyan exports to increase exports and hence improve the manufacturing sector. It is in light of this that the Blue Economy Implementation Standing Committee (BEISC) has embarked on facilitating investment in seaweed farming for its potential to contribute to the overall growth of the economy.

Vision 2030: Kenya’s Vision 2030 envisages the transformation of the country into an industrialized economy by 2030. Industrial development is identified as a key driving force that puts pressure on the environment. Industrialization involves transformation of raw materials into value-added products using technology. Considering this fact, the second midterm plan aims at the adoption of the ecosystem approach in management plans to support sustainability in resource utilization. As highlighted in the Blue Economy initiative, Seaweeds will be utilized sustainably while enhancing biodiversity conservation and ecosystem integrity.

Fisheries Policy and legislation: The Fisheries conservation and management Act 2016 provides for the conservation, management and development of fisheries and other aquatic resources to enhance the livelihood of communities dependent on fishing. The Kenya Fisheries Services has been established for this purpose. Part 50 (1c) of the Act empowers the cabinet secretary to gazette fish breeding sites and this includes macroalgal beds which also act as nursery habitats for juvenile fish (GoK, 2016c).

Environmental Management and Coordination Act, 2012: Designed to alleviate pressure on the environment through good environmental management and safeguards against any type of pollution. It is therefore relevant to the protection of estuaries especially through activities that aid in safeguarding the environment.

Environmental and Development Policy (Sessional Paper No. 6 of 1999): Formulated to harmonize environmental and developmental goals to achieve sustainable development. It contains comprehensive strategies and appropriate guidelines for the Government to act, providing a framework for an integrated approach to planning and sustainable management of Kenya’s environment and natural resources.

Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) policy, 2013: Aims at providing a framework for sound management of the coastal zone and associated resources through inter-sectoral coordination and integration of environmental consideration into socio-economic planning and implementation at all, levels. The Policy recognizes the inter-relationship and interconnectedness of the coastal environment. The seaweed farms fall within the coastal setback and safeguarding the industry will protect the seaweed farms from encroachment and damage through development projects.

Maritime Zones Act, 2012: Provides for prescribing measures for the protection and preservation of the marine environment. The Act also promotes and enhances cooperation, collaboration, synergy, partnerships and participation in the protection, conservation, sustainable management of the environment and natural resources.

The Science Technology and Innovation Act 2013, Cap 250: The Act provides for research in the coastal and marine environment. Additionally, it promotes and supports research and capacity development as well as use of innovative environmental management tools such as incentives, disincentives, total economic valuation, indicators of sustainable development, strategic environmental assessments (SEAs), environmental impact assessments (EIAs), Environmental Audit, and Payment for Environmental Services (PES). It is, therefore, under this Act that institutions like KMFRI were established to undertake research on the aquatic environment in order to provide scientific data and information for sustainable exploitation, management and conservation of Kenya’s fisheries. Information remains a key foundation for sustainable development and is fundamental to successful planning and decision making.

National policy on gender and development, 2000: The policy sets legislative and administrative measures to address the existing gaps in the realization of gender equality and women’s empowerment. Generally, gender plays an important role in the management of the environment since different social groups and demographics are impacted differently by environmental challenges. They also play unique roles in managing the environment given their unique capabilities, experiences and knowledge relating to the environment. The policy recognizes that achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment requires the concerted effort of all actors hence the need to mainstream gender and equity in all sustainable developments.

Land Act, 2012: It recognizes three categories of land ownership as stipulated in Article 61 (1) and (2). These are public, community and private land. Further, Article 62 (1) of the constitution defines public land as including all government forests, rivers, lakes and all water bodies and land between high and low water marks (GoK, 2010). In terms of management and governance, community land is managed under unwritten customary laws. Private tenure is divided into freehold and leasehold where, under freehold tenure, land is owned by an individual or a group privately over an indefinite period of time. In leasehold tenure, land ownership has a time limit upon payment of the agreed charge. Land under public tenure is owned by the government on behalf of the citizens of Kenya (GoK, 2010).

Physical and Land Use Planning Act, 2019 Cap.303: Sets out land planning regulations and gives the local authorities power to plan their own developments. According to the Constitution of Kenya (2010), the government holds public land in trust for the citizens and the National Land Commission (NLC) administers it on their behalf. Public land can only be disposed of through an Act of parliament as in GoK, 2010: 62 (4). However, the intertidal zone is exempted from disposal or any allocation as indicated in the Land Act, 2012: 12 2(b).

Further, community land is owned by communities, where the community must be registered with the government and is not limited to ethnicity (GoK, 2016:63 (1)). The Community land falls under different tenure categories, namely, customary, freehold, leasehold, and such other tenure system recognized under the Community Land Act (2016) or other written law (GoK, 2016a). Registered communities are expected to adhere to the laws and policies on sustainable

conservation of natural resources within their land (GoK, 2016: 20 (1)). County government holds in trust any unregistered community land on behalf of the communities (GoK, 2016: 63 (3)).

Under Community Land Act (2016), men and women, without discrimination, can apply to a registered community for occupancy of registered community land. In Part III and Part VII of the Act, the management of community land is through a participatory process by a community assembly who can make rules and by-laws on management of land and other natural resources as long as they agree with county’s national laws (GoK, 2016).As such this gives the groups involved in seaweed farming a window in utilizing community land for infrastructural development that support seaweed upscaling.The Kenya Tourist Development Corporation Act, Chapter 382: Gives powers to the Kenya Tourist Development Corporation to (a) investigate and formulate projects for the promotion or expansion of new or existing enterprises and to carry out such projects; (b) carry out activities which are needed for or in connection with the promotion or expansion of new or existing enterprises. As such engagement in Seaweed farming promotes eco-tourism within the villages while also aiding in creation of alternative livelihoods for the groups.