Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Seaweed Farming in Jambiani Beach - Zanzibar, TZ

During my trip to the island of Zanzibar I spent three nights in Jambiani, which is located on the south east coast of the island. I choose this area as you get to enjoy the culture of the local life. The beaches in Jambiani are natural and not cleaned daily of seaweed. I stayed at the Red Monkey Lodge while in Jambiani.  The quaint resort offers a great place to relax and enjoy the beautiful Indian Ocean.

Coral reefs line the coast of Zanzibar and surrounding islands.  The fine white sand and warm turquoise waters will do wonders for your feet as you walk along the beautiful sandbar at low tide. When I arrived at the Red Monkey Lodge the tide was in, waves crashing on the beach. From my research and reading TripAdvisor reviews I knew that the tide would go out quite far and that the locals make a living from farming the seaweed along the coast of Jambiani. I went to bed the first night in my beautiful room, footsteps from the beach, very excited to wake up and learn how and why the locals did their farming of seaweed.  I woke in the morning, enjoyed my breakfast with a view.  The tide had gone out and the sand bar could be seen for miles. I could see women of all ages walking out to their farms, off I went with my camera - you must admit it looks quite inviting!

There were many different families along the shoreline working very hard to take advantage of the low tide. The farms can only be tended to at low tide so each day they make the best of their time.  Sticks of wood are driven into the sand and then twine or rope is tied from one end to the other. When the tide comes back in all evidence of the farms disappear and the seaweed is collected as it moves about the ocean. 

I walked along greeting the locals in Kiswahili, asking how their day was and blessing them for their days work. A young woman, probably the age of 16 or 17 asked me for some help as I walked by. She needed assistance in getting the heavy bag, full of seaweed on top of her head.

I kept walking though the warm shallow waters and came across the supplies that are needed for the farming, it was like the supplies were laid out just for my picture.  The supplies consisted of small pieces of seaweed, the bags for the harvested seaweed and the small bits of string.

I kept walking along the shoreline for a while and then decided to sit on the sand and enjoy the view.  A local teenage boy came along, he was out helping his mother and wanted to see where this "mzungu" (Kiswahili for tourist or white man) was visiting from. We chatted for a bit in Kiswahili and then I asked him to explain to me in English the process of the farming. He explained that the small pieces of seaweed are tied to the small pieces of string and then tied to the long strings in the water.  As the tide rises and falls day after day the seaweed grows in large bundles which then get sorted and picked when the time is right.  I asked what the seaweed is used for and his response was for making many things. He continued to explain that the seaweed is exported from Jambiani and used to make candles, soap and also used for medicine.  

The sun was shining bright and I knew it as time to have a little break as I had forgot to put on sunscreen, it was time to head into the shade. I enjoyed the walk back, snapping a few more photos of the wooden boats which now sat on the ocean floor and the interesting marine life, such as the beautiful spider fish.

Sitting in the shade I watched as the tide slowly started to come back in and the locals pole pole started to make their way back to the shore.  Some of the younger children were excited that their mamas were soon finished work, they gathered on the beach with their family and friends waiting for mama to return. The higher the tide became the harder it appeared for the women to haul in their loads, some ladies were pulling up to 15 full bags of seaweed. I took note that the farming was done mainly by the women.

Once they reached the shore the women re-counted their bags of seaweed, to make sure no bags where left behind. They then carried the bags to the rock wall behind the beach, where they would then get carried home and the drying process could begin. When I went for a walk later that evening I saw many bags of seaweed sprawled in the front and back yards. 

Swimming in Jambiani is great once the tide becomes high, the seaweed is once again covered and all presence of hard work has disappeared for another day. During the low-tide walking around the beautiful sandbanks and wadding in the warm pools is a wonderful way to spend your morning. 

For more beautiful photos of Zanzibar be sure to watch my Virtual Tour of Zanzibar.  You can also learn more about Zanzibar and the Slave Trade which once took place on the island. 

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