In North Pemba, Zanzibar, seaweed farming is the major source of livelihood for the people. It contributes about 25% to Zanzibar’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, for more than two decades, the production of seaweed and management of the business was directly controlled by foreign companies.
Foreign companies would provide seaweed farmers with farming material and ropes on condition that they solely sell to the companies their produce. As a result, farmers had no control on where they could sell their seaweed and at what price. In North Pemba, 30 out of 54 shehias (villages) engage in seaweed farming, involving 10,000 people, 7,500 of which are women.
This problem has been exacerbated by the failure to observe government rules and procedures by local leaders, some government officials and operating foreign companies. Seaweed farmers were not informed of their rights or entitlements. This all changed in 2006.
In 2006, ActionAid met with farmers to address their problems and sensitise them about their rights and entitlements. The seaweed farmers later went on to establish the Pemba Seaweed Farmers Association (PESEFA). ActionAid facilitated a series of awareness raising and sensitisation sessions to strengthen PESEFA’s governance system, leadership and management. With the aim of reducing their dependence on companies, ActionAid provided an initial support for PESEFA to establish its own saving and credit groups and basic farming equipments and material.
The changes have been dramatic: there are currently 1,625 members; the price for seaweed has more than doubled (Tsh. 120 to Tsh. 250 per kilogram); there is improved production of quality seaweed to about 10,000 tonnes per year; the rights and entitlements of farmers are protected; farmers freely sell their seaweed to companies they want; relations between farmers and companies have improved; farmers have established other means of earning income apart from seaweed farming; farmers can negotiate and demand for tax payment and developments of their villages; and lastly, PESEFA receiving recognition from the government and stakeholder, earning a place at the negotiation table on issues affecting their lives.
Mkasha Shaame, 49, is the secretary of PESEFA and appreciates the success they have gained through ActionAid’s support.
We highly appreciate the efforts made by ActionAid in building the capacity of our leaders and members. PESEFA has managed to mobilise more members and negotiate seaweed prices with buyers. This year we went on strike and refused to sell our seaweed at a low price. Though we were intimidated by the buyers, we stood firm. The government has recognised PESEFA’s efforts and contributions. PESEFA has been approached by other seaweed farmers in other districts to form a regional level organisation to cater for all seaweed farmers in Zanzibar.
(USD 1 = Tsh. 1,486.42)