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CTA. 2002. Kelp helps. Spore 102. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/47769
Internet URL: http://spore.cta.int/images/stories/pdf/old/spore102.pdf
Is the sea near your farm? Why not embark on sea farming or as the cultivation of seaweeds is called mariculture. The virtues of seaweeds have been known for ages but only in the past few decades have both production and consumption started to...
Is the sea near your farm? Why not embark on sea farming or as the cultivation of seaweeds is called mariculture. The virtues of seaweeds have been known for ages but only in the past few decades have both production and consumption started to soar. The various edible brown, green and red seaweeds they are grouped according to colour, which is determined by light availability are not only gaining in popularity as a vegetable, they are increasingly being used industrially to give a smoother texture to such products such as ice-cream, beer, jam, paper, rubber, toothpaste, ointments and lipstick. Some, particularly the well-known Spirulina species, are also used for their medicinal properties. Of the three groups, brown seaweeds are most common and most widely produced. According to the FAO, world production rose in the 1990s by almost 100% to almost 7,000,000 million t (fresh weight) today annually. China, with an annual 4,000,000 million t, is by far the largest producer, followed at a distance by other Asian countries such as Japan, Korea and the Philippines. In the Pacific seaweed production is a well-established business too. Africa is a relative newcomer, although Tanzania and Madagascar have been exporting red seaweeds (Eucheuma species) for years for carrageenans (the source of an infinite variety of gels). On the island of Zanzibar sea farming was established a decade ago. Here it has become primarily a woman s task. The weeds are usually grown on strings between poles just beneath the water surface. It takes some weeks before it can be harvested, after which it is dried and sold. The prices for industrial seaweeds in Zanzibar are currently low, but they nevertheless enable the women to earn more money than their husbands do from fishing and growing crops. Africa could make much more use of the resource. Keto Mshigeni of the University of Namibia argues in Discovery and Innovation (the African Academy of Sciences journal), that seaweeds could be used to extract iodine. An estimated 150 million Africans suffer from iodine deficiencies and currently all the iodide for adding iodine to salt has to be imported, and yet on the shores of southern Africa are seaweeds such as Laminaria and Ecklonia species which contain about 6,000 mg of iodine per kilo weed. Another added-value possibility was discovered by the Taurus Products company in Namibia, which developed Agrikelp, a seaweed-based soil improver. A substance in the weeds absorbs and stores water, releasing it very slowly. When added to the soil, it improves the soil s water-holding capacity and retards wilting. What s new, people on the Celtic fringes of Europe, in Britanny and Wales, may ask? There kelp has been added to soil for thousands of years, as well as being used in the baking of bread. [caption to illustration] Why call it a seaweed when it improves soil, enhances fish dishes and, dried, is a tasty snack?