|The Eucheuma Seaweed Story in the Western Indian Ocean Region: Past, Present and Future (COSTECH, 1994, 33 p.)|
(45) Seaweeds will, undoubtedly, be seen to be an increasingly important natural resource in Africa, in the future. How can I be so sure about that? These are the facts:
(a) First, many of our coastal village communities in Tanzania, who are pioneers in Africa for that matter, have already successfully assimilated the seaweed farming technology; and they know how profitable seaweed farming can be. Thus as long as a market for their farm produce is assured, they wont turn back.
(b) Secondly, increasingly more branches of modem industry, and more research laboratories, are making use of colloids and other natural products of seaweed origin. These include meat industry, fruit and fish canning industries, textile industries, and beverages industries. Meat dipped in a seaweed colloid keeps fresh longer, partly because many of the common food decomposers lack enzymes that can digest seaweed colloids, such as agar and carrageenan. Thus markets for natural products from seaweeds will continue to expand.
(c) Thirdly, many countries in Africa are importing large quantities colloids of seaweed origin at an exhorbitant cost. These include algin; which is extensively used in the manufacture of textile printing pastes; agar, which is extensively used as a culture medium for fungi, bacteria, and other microbial organisms, in microbiological and public health laboratories; and carrageenan, which has a wide range of applications in milk products industries. As our various countries in Africa continue to industrialise, they will need larger quantities of these seaweed natural products. And, in due course, they will realise that it is far much more economical to use hydrocolloids from the local populations of seaweeds, than imported products.
(d) Additionally, our many inhabitants in Africa are increasingly realising, that there is a limit beyond which we can no longer clear our terrestrial forests, woodlands, and grasslands for agriculture. And with the realisation that many of our coastal waters, which have been left fallow from the days of Adam and Eve, are ideal habitats for fish farming, prawn farming, seaweed farming, etc., we shall see more entrepreneurs venturing into marine resource development.
(46) Let us now cite a few examples of activities in progress, which indicate the direction to which we are moving, with respect to the promotion seaweed resource development in Africa:
(a) In Tanzania, several seaweed companies, and many individual farmers are in action, promoting seaweed farming development in Zanzibar, Pemba, Mafia, and some localities in Mtwara.
(b) Again in Tanzania, the Tanzania Industrial and Research Development Organisation (TIRDO), is in action, developing a prototype industrial plant for the extraction of sodium alginate from the Sargassum seaweed biomass.
(c) In Namibia, the experimental cultivation of the seaweed Gracilaria (an important agar source), which is also well represented in Tanzania, is already showing promising results.
(d) Again in Namibia, trials on the utilisation of seaweeds as livestock feed supplements, are in progress. And let me take this opportunity to inform this august audience, that in one of the trials, horses supplied with seaweed feed supplements had their health and fertility improved significantly.
(e) In Seychelles, a huge biomass of the seaweed Sargassum is extensively used as an agricultural fertilizer in coconut farms, and is very effective.
(f) In Madagascar, Gelidium madagascariense is harvested for export trade, as a source of agar, and several other seaweed taxa in that country are used as an agricultural fertilizer.
(g) And, in the Republic of South Africa, Laminaria and Ecklonia seaweeds are processed to produce a very effective liquid fertilizer, which is also rich in plant hormones, especially cytokinins.
(47) Recently it was reported in the media, that Tanzania had embarked on a big project, involving the importation of potassium iodide, at an exhorbitant cost, for making iodized salt. This is to help combat the problem of goitre in the country. Goitre is a common problem throughout the world, especially in inland mountain regions, where, over the years, the iodine that was present in the soil, has been leached to sub-optimal levels. Crops grown on such soils, therefore, fail to supply the body with adequate levels of iodine, when used as food; hence the need for iodized salt. And I am saying, that instead of our Government spending substantial amounts of our meagre foreign exchange reserves, on the importation of iodized salt, we should strive to spend that money in the country, to develop an infrastructure for processing our iodine-rich seaweeds, to produce a powder with which to iodise our locally produced salt The seaweed extracts will, in addition, enrich the salt with other vital trace metals vitamins, and additional valuable products. I have sensitized TIRDO and some potential entrepreneurs on this idea, which, I believe, will be supported by WHO, UNICEF, UNIDO, and our Ministry of Health, and the outcome is likely to be very promising.
(48) Some of the seaweeds abounding in Africas marine water bodies, for example, Porphyra, found in Namibia, and Eucheuma, abundant in Tanzania, are elsewhere used as an aphrodisiac. With respect to this bizarre use, I want to emphasize to those of you who may to be doubting Thomases, that modem scientific research and technological advances have often revealed, post facto, that the ancients were, in fact, right. There is a need, therefore, for a thorough scientific investigation on this interesting aspect of seaweed utilization, which could, indeed, save our African rhino. If you want to become a millionaire, be the first entrepreneur to promote this use. And I inform this assembly, Mr. Chairman, that we have a species, an endemic species called Consultantus tanzaniensis, the current speaker, who is available to serve as a consultant in promoting seaweed resource development in the region.
(49) Finally, let me point out that the Eucheuma biomass farmed by our coastal villagers, is exported in an unprocessed form. Yet, the extraction of the hydrocolloid is quite simple. If we went a step further, and exported crude carrageenan, instead of the unprocessed seaweed, we would significantly add value to the seaweed biomass which our coastal farmers produce. On this, there is room for Tanzania to learn from the experience of the Philippines. Again, if you want to make money, be the first entrepreneur in that development.
(50) And let me conclude by saying that yesterday is a cancelled cheque; to-morrow is a promised cheque; to-day is the only cash you have. So spend that cash wisely, as an entrepreneur in seaweed resource development: TO-DAY!
Thank you all for your kind attention.