|The Eucheuma Seaweed Story in the Western Indian Ocean Region: Past, Present and Future (COSTECH, 1994, 33 p.)|
(18) While undertaking my doctoral training, I was, at the same time, monitoring progress on the farming of Eucheuma in the Philippines. And, just before my return to Tanzania, Professor Maxwell Doty, my Ph.D. supervisor, published a success story on Eucheuma farming in that country (Doty, 1973).
(19) Upon my return to Tanzania in 1974, I was keen to undertake experiments on seaweed farming immediately. But I had an obligation to complete my National Service at the Ruvu Camp first. By the time I emerged from Ruvu, in the middle of 1975, the cultivation of the Eucheuma seaweed in the Philippines had expanded quite extensively.
(20) Convinced, more than ever before, that Eucheuma farming in Tanzania was also a possibility, I published a paper in Tanzania Notes and Records (Mshigeni, 1976), aimed at sensitizing Tanzanias business community on how the Eucheuma seaweed could be farmed. The illustrations for the article were based on the photographs that I had taken in the Sulu Sea archipelago, Southern Philippines, in April and May 1970, while en route to the University of Hawaii.
(21) But what species of seaweeds should be selected as candidates in the marine agronomy operations? Obviously one should look for taxa that can easily be marketed, i.e, those already in industrial demand. And, other things being equal, one should also select taxa yielding higher levels of the desired industrial colloids. Additionally, one should give priority to those with highest efficiency in biomass regeneration.
(22) The field data I had collected during 1969/70 were useful in giving me some idea on what to start with. But I needed some pieces of research equipment, I needed some chemicals and reagents, as well as research funds for revisiting some of the localities which had been seen to support rich beds of seaweeds. I also needed controlled environmental growth cabinets, for laboratory experiments on the salinity, temperature, and other growth tolerance levels of the seaweed taxa under study.
(23) Through the then Head of the Botany Department, Professor Alison McCusker, and also through the then Head of the Zoology Department, Professor Abdulrahman Msangi, I came to learn about the existence of the International Foundation for Science (IFS), based in Stockholm, Sweden. And I applied for a research grant, to determine phycocolloid yields of a wide variety of Tanzanian seaweeds, to characterise the phycocolloids, and also to undertake experiments on the growth dynamics of the species with high yields of industrial colloids and other commercially interesting natural products. Lucky me: the International Foundation for Science granted the requested research funds.
(24) At that material time, I was assigned several postgraduate students to supervise. The first of these was Associate Professor Adelaida K. Semesi, who had just graduated with strong grades in Botany and Chemistry, and who was, therefore, incorporated in the research aspects involving the characterisation of seaweed colloids. The other postgraduate students I was assigned to supervise, focused their research on the ecology and cultivation of economically important algae.
(25) Several undergraduate students were also incorporated in the seaweed research programme. Indeed, during the years 1976 to 1980, there were talks of mwani, mwani everywhere, in the Botany Department. And we did not keep the research results to ourselves: we published the information in a wide array of journals, such as Marine Biology, Botanica Marina, Nova Hedwigia, Hydrobiologia and Experientia.
(26) From the new information that was gathered I was convinced that, although during my Ph.D. study, I had discovered that the Hypnea seaweed could be cultivated from its reproductive bodies, spores, and that using the spore method one could produce harvestable crops of Hypnea within only three months, Eucheuma would be the best choice as the candidate for seaweed farming operations in Tanzania, due to the following facts:
· the Eucheuma seaweed was already known by our coastal villagers, who already were harvesting its various species for export;
· individual Eucheuma plants have bigger fronds that those of Hypnea, and hence are easier to handle in commercial farming operations;
· with their bigger fronds, the Eucheuma plants were likely to be more efficient in producing a larger biomass for export than Hypnea, other things being equal; and
· the phycocolloid yield of Eucheuma (55-65%) is significantly higher than that of Hypnea (35% to 45% yield, on a dry weight basis).
(27) Having reached a decision on the Eucheuma seaweed, I had a strong feeling, that I did not have to re-invent the wheel. What I needed was to travel back to the Philippines, to visit a successful Eucheuma farm, and to up-date myself with information on the nitty-gritties of seaweed farming, with a view to assessing how the techniques could be adapted to suit the ecological set-up and socio-economic environment of Tanzania. During the 9th International Seaweed Symposium, held at Santa Barbara, California in 1977,1 discussed my plans with Mr. Hans Porse, the then field Director of the GENU Products Ltd. (a subsidiary of the Copenhagen Pektin Fabrik), who kindly made it possible for me visit their Eucheuma Farm at Cebu city, Philippines. My visit to Cebu was co-sponsored by the International Foundation for Science and UNESCO. It was exciting seeing the outcome of Professor Dotys efforts, and recalling that I had been afforded an opportunity to give some inputs during the initial phase of the Eucheuma farming experiments in the Philippines, in April and May, 1970.
(28) But then, how does one go beyond mere talks, and get into real seaweed farming business, especially in a country where the use of the marine plants in question by men, and women is negligible? Definitely funds, were needed. And after contacting several funding agencies, it turned out that the ideas that I had expressed, were in consonance with the funding provisions of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), under their then newly launched, Improved Rural Technology (IRT) Projects. And we submitted a proposal for funding consideration. In the project document it was emphasized that:
· technologies of cultivating seaweeds were developed by the people of Japan as long ago as 1700, and that
· the farming technologies I was planning to adopt had been tested in the Philippines, and found to work.
(29) In the proposal it was also stated that the seaweed farming activity was likely to generate the following benefits:
· increased number of Tanzanians with seaweed farming know-how;
· application of this know-how towards enhanced production of seaweed biomass for export;
· increased foreign exchange earnings in the country, through the seaweed exports;
· increased income of the families engaged in seaweed farming, and alleviation of rural poverty;
· realisation by the villagers that coral reefs are vital for protecting their farms against destruction by excessive waves and ocean currents, and hence
· realisation of the need for the villagers to protect ou reefs against dynamite fishing activities.
(30) A grant of US $ 87,000 was secured from USAID for implementing the seaweed farming idea.