Aquaculture for Local Community Development Programme



Sevaly Sen
Consultant Socio-economist

This report was prepared during the course of the project identified on the cover. The conclusions and recommendations given in the report are those considered appropriate at the time of its preparation. They may be modified in the light of further knowledge gained at subsequent stages of the project.

The designations employed and the presentation of the material in this document do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the United Nations or the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal or constitutional status of any country, territory or sea area, or concerning the delimination of frontiers.


The study on seaweed collection and culture in Tanzania. as reported in this document, was undertaken by ALCOM in collaboration with the Fisheries Division, Ministry of Tourism, Natural Resources and Environment and with the assistance of the Institute of Marine Sciences, Zanzibar.

ALCOM (Aquaculture for Local Community Development Programme) is executed by FAO and funded by Sweden (SIDA). It is an inter-regional programme, although focusing it's activities to the SADCC countries in southern Africa.

The objective is to develop, test and demonstrate methods and techniques by which rural people can improve their standard of living through aquaculture and to assist participating countries in generating larger scale development projects by applying the results of methodology development.


HarareMail :P O Box 3730, Harare, Zimbabwe
 Telex :26040 FAO ZW
Tel. :724985/734797
Fax :263-4-729563
LusakaCentral Fisheries Research Institute, Chilanga
 Mail :P O Box 30563, Lusaka, Zambia
Telex :44510 FAO ZM ZA
Fax :260-1-221927

Harare, Zimbabwe, November 1991

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1.   Introduction

2.   Terms of Reference, Itinerary and Persons Met

3.   The Marine Algae Environment in Tanzania

3.1   Factors influencing the distribution of marine algae
3.2   Species of Marine Algae

4.   History of the seaweed industry in Tanzania

4.1   Harvesting of Wild Seaweed Stocks
4.2   Seaweed culture

5.   Present Situation

6.   Findings in Areas Selected for Further Study

6.1   The East Coast of Zanzibar
6.2   Tanga Region
6.3   Collection of Wild Stocks of Seaweed on Mafia Island

7.   Marketing and Distribution Channels

8.   Present and Future Constraints Facing the Seaweed Industry

8.1   Existing and Prospective Seaweed Farmers
8.2   Existing and Prospective Exporters

9.   Economic and social aspects of harvesting of wild stocks

10.   Economic and social aspects of seaweed cultivation

11.   Recommendations for Follow-up Activities


1.Terms of Reference
3.List of Persons Met
4.References on Seaweed
5.Brief Overview of the International Seaweed Industry


As part of ALCOM's ongoing activities in the SADCC region and at the request of the Government of Tanzania, a study was carried out on the seaweed industry in Tanzania.

A number of studies have been undertaken on the physiology, morphology, distribution and ecology of seaweeds in Tanzania, but very little was known about collection, culture and utilization of seaweeds in Tanzania. The purpose of the study was to investigate these aspects.

Initial investigations revealed that the history of seaweed collection dates back to the early 1950s. Eucheuma sp. are the only species collected. The University of Dar-es-Salaam started farming trials with Eucheuma striatum in the early 1980s. The first commercial venture, with Eucheuma spinosum began in 1989. Whether farmed or collected, all seaweed is dried and exported to carrageenan processing factories in Denmark, France or the Far East.

Three areas in Tanzania were visited for further study: Zanzibar Island, northern Tanzania near Tanga and Mafia Island. All areas had a history of seaweed collection whilst commercial seaweed cultivation had recently started on Zanzibar.

Collection of seaweed from the wild is a sporadic and declining economic activity for women and children in coastal fishing communities. Collection occurs during the northwest and southwest monsoons when plants located offshore are uprooted and deposited on beaches. Businessmen, usually involved in the export of beche de mer and seashells, arrange for the dried seaweed to be collected from the coastal villages. Prices paid are very low and the dried product poor, with a high species mixture and debris content. Quantities exported are small and infrequent. The main areas where collection takes place are Mafia and Pemba islands.

The export trade in collected seaweed is small and irregular. It is unlikely that this trade will expand because suppliers cannot be guaranteed with regular quantities of a high quality dried product. Equally, the low prices paid to collectors do not compare favourably with other activities associated with the inter-tidal zone such as octopi fishing.

Two companies have recently started fish farming along the eastern coast of Zanzibar. Both started cultivation with locally obtained E. striatum but were unsuccessful as the plants were infested by epiphytes. However cultivation with E. spinosum brought from South-east Asia proved very successful, achieving high growth rates. Although both companies have adopted the off-bottom method of cultivation, they use different approaches with regard to local community involvement. One company, employing Filipino expertise, provides initial inputs (seedlings, coir rope) and extension advice to villagers. The other company, cultivates the seaweed themselves using employed labour although it has begun to provide some interested villagers with initial inputs.

Despite initial scepticism by communities in the area, the success and acceptability of seaweed farming is clearly demonstrated by the increasing numbers of people wishing to become involved. The first people to take up the activity were women, who traditionally harvest the inter-tidal area (octopi, seashells). However, the profitability of the enterprise, combined with its simplicity, soon encouraged men to become involved and there are now an estimated 1100 farmers involved.2

Both companies pay the same price for the dried product-Tanzanian Shilling 45/kilo. One company exports to Denmark and the other to Singapore. Both are also investigating new areas for expansion of their activities.

The potential for expansion of seaweed culture, with the active participation of coastal communities appears promising. However, potential exporters require more international market information and there is a need for more information on methods to farm seaweed. Should farming become widespread, there may be conflicts over ownership and use of inter-tidal areas. The development of the seaweed industry in Tanzania also relies on establishing strong links with importers.

Finally, the study recommends that follow-up activities should focus on:

  1. Identification of suitable sites for seaweed cultivation;

  2. Trial experiments on the culture of other species;

  3. Preparation of handbooks on seaweed farming;

  4. Encouragement of local community involvement in seaweed farming and;

  5. Collection of international market information.