The Blue Economy Implementation Committee (BEIC) has said there is need to invest heavily in seaweed, citing huge potential in the marine resource. Chief of Defence Forces General Samson Mwathethe, who was appointed chairman of the BEIC through a Presidential Executive Order in September 2016, said his team will help in the implementation of all blue projects.
He spoke on February 3, 2018, during the committee’s visit to Kibuyuni Beach Management Unit, a blue economy initiative supported by the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI).
KMFRI Director Prof James Njiru took the committee members on a guided tour of seaweed farms, drying racks, stores and seaweed processing unit, in Kibuyuni, Kwale County.
While acknowledging challenges facing seaweed farmers, Gen Mwathethe said there is need to find an investor and a market for soaps being manufactured at the factory. The KDF boss said the blue economy will greatly contribute to the overall growth of the economy. He thanked Kibuyuni Seaweed Farmers chairlady Mama Fatuma Mohammed and her team for the warm welcome.
Outgoing Fisheries PS Prof Micheni Ntiba, who will be serving the Education ministry in the same capacity, said seaweed value addition will create jobs. He thanked Kenyans for their support during his tenure under the Agriculture docket.
Others in the delegation included: Dr Erick Aligula from the Office of the President, Mrs Sarah Yamo (Cabinet), Mr Abdallah Hatimy from Maritime Affairs, Ms Juster Nkoroi and Mrs Ruth Kaggia from the Cabinet/Blue Economy.
KMFRI Deputy Directors Dr Enoch Wakwabi (Fresh Water Systems), Dr Renison Ruwa (Ocean and Coastal Water Systems) and Mr Abraham Kagwima (Finance and Administration) were also present.
Background of seaweed value addition
Seaweed farming has been identified as a good prospect for social and economic development of coastal areas. It is aimed at diversifying livelihood opportunities for poor fishing communities whose livelihooods have been put at serious risk by diminished capture fisheries.
KMFRI, Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI), The State Department of Fisheries and the Blue Economy, Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBs), Brand Kenya, Kenya Intellectual Property Institute (KIPI) and the County government of Kwale have been working together under the leadership of the Blue Economy Implementation Committee to fast-track seaweed value addition, and especially enhancing technology intervention and commercialisation products.
In Kibuyuni, seaweed farmers, a user group within Kibuyuni Beach management unit (BMU) have received support on seaweed farming from various stakeholders including KMFRI (research and technical support and training on seaweed production), KCDP (upscaling of seaweed farming, construction of drying racks, purchase of boat for seaweed value addition techniques) and Kwale county government (construction of seaweed store).
Kibuyuni farmers have produced and sold over 44 tonnes of dried seaweeds at approximately Sh1,345,810. The seaweed is being exported dry to counties like China, Ireland and Malaysia by Seaweed East Africa Company.
Through the Blue Economy Implementation Committee initiative, KMFRI coordinated the upgrading of the existing facility in Kibuyuni (part of seaweed store constructed by the County Government of Kwale and handed over to the community) by undertaking electrical, water and waste management works, that is, install requisite water, power supply, electrical fittings and renovations.
To grow seaweed business, there are plans to submit soap samples to KEBs and to brand the product. Further, efforts will be made to upscale seaweed farming to other coastal communities, diversify products, develop a Business Management Model, provide start-up capital, and invest in infrastructure and capacity building of staff working in the factory to take the initiative to the next level.