Zanzibar is one of the poorest regions in the world. With 16,000 tons per year, seaweed production has become the third largest industry on the archipelago off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean. It is exported to the US, Europe and Asia, where it is used in cosmetics, medicine and as a food additive.
About 90 per cent of the seaweed farmers are women. In the shallow waters off the east coast of Zanzibar they tie small bunches of seaweed at equal distance to pieces of string, which are then secured to the seabed with wooden stakes. The bunches are then left to grow under water for six weeks, until they are big enough to be harvested. As an agricultural product, seaweed is remarkably low maintenance and environmentally friendly. It requires very little labour in the one and a half months it is takes to grow and during that time it even helps to clean up the ocean by absorbing fertilizer runoffs and carbon dioxide from the water. When the seaweed is ready, it is taken ashore and dried in the sun before it is sold to export companies.
Seaweed farming has allowed many Zanzibari women to earn an income and to be independent. Lately, however, a rise in water temperature has stunted the growth of the crops. Euchema cottonii, the most popular seaweed produced in Zanzibar, grows best in water temperatures of around 25 to 30 degrees Celsius (77-86 Fahrenheit), but temperatures are now rising above 31C (88 F), which not only hinders the growth of the seaweed and promotes diseases, it also helps fine, green algae to grow between the plants, reducing their quality and value. The only solution to combat the problem would be to grow the seaweed in deeper, cooler waters, but as the women of Zanzibar can’t swim, this is not really an option.
The women of Zanzibar are losing their livelihood because we, from the countries that are largely responsible for the climate change, are paying them less for a product, which is of a lesser quality, because of the climate change we caused.
The effects of climate change are most noticeable in the poorest regions in the world and in order to create a better future for all of us, I believe we can no longer look away.





















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