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September 24, 2020

Nature Conservancy boosts women seaweed farmers 

Posted: Thursday, September 24, 2020. 3:23 pm CST.

Picture courtesy: Belize Women Seaweed Farmers Association

By Aaron Humes: Julie Robinson, programme manager for Belize’s office of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), has chronicled the rise of the Belize Women’s Seaweed Farmers Association (BWSFA) as a means of helping women to develop an innovative sustainable seaweed mariculture industry that provides ecosystem benefits in addition to alternative income.

Based in Placencia, Stann Creek District, and established in 2019, Robinson tells The Fish Site that the membership of the BWSFA share inspiring stories and a shared vision for uplifting their community, better known for tourism, as well as a passion for the ocean, their country and seaweed farming. 

In Belize, seaweed, according to Robinson, is valued for cooking and as a nutritious ingredient, for example in fresh smoothies. It can fetch up to US$15 (BZ$30) per pound in dried form. 

TNC helped train farmers and worked in testing and developing a seaweed farming system that protects and provides habitat for other commercially and ecologically important species, such as spiny lobster, parrotfish, snapper and a host of other species. 

But it found that women were as interested and passionate about the new industry but lacked support from their male counterparts in the long-established fishing cooperatives in Belize City and Placencia. 

Robinson says the BWSFA “have established their board of directors, are developing a strategic plan, have launched their website, started their own farm, and are creating several seaweed-based value-added products. Passion, commitment and a shared vision for more resilient communities paved the way for this valuable partnership.” And none too soon, she adds, as Placencia and other coastal communities have reeled from the effects of COVID-19 restrictions and loss of income and revenue from tourism.  

Sustainably increasing seafood supply and support livelihoods in coastal communities while achieving our conservation objectives must be achieved, she writes. Until then, continue to support from afar and hopefully when travel fully and safely resumes, in person. 


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