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GVI Fiji Achievement Report, Yasawa Islands Objective: Alternative Livelihoods

March 2014

The Success of the Seaweed Farming Pilot Project

In Summary:
GVI has been supporting the Ministry of Fisheries and Forestry to create a model seaweed farm for
the Northern Yasawa region. This successful collaboration has helped to test and showcase methods
for growing seaweed for income generation in this specific region of the Fiji Islands. The Ministry of
Fisheries and GVI set the first lines in 2013 with the aim of demonstrating a new potential
sustainable livelihood for local communities. Since its inception last year the farm has been tended
to by GVI volunteers and community members on a weekly basis. GVI has assisted the Ministry of
Fisheries in the expansion of the seaweed nursery which GVI helped to create last year. To date the
size of the nursery has grown exponentially from a few test lines to over 180 lines. With the seaweed
growing at a successful rate there will soon be a harvest which will bring in the first new income
from the demo site. The success of this demo site could lead to the expansion of the initiative to
other villages and areas of the Yasawas and provide a sustainable alternative livelihood for

200 Lines planted
Over 77 volunteer
hours committed

Seaweed farming around the world is an incredibly fast growing industry with an increase of 8% per
year since the 1970s (Source: FAO).

Seaweed is used for human and animal consumption, for fertiliser and to extract various products.
Currently the global demand for these products outstrips supply.

Efforts have been made to develop this industry in other Island nations such as The Philippines and
Indonesia and it has been incredibly successful. An estimated 200 000 people in the Philippines now
make a living from seaweed cultivation (SIAP) and a farmers can make 5 times the income from
seaweed than from other crops. In Fiji farmers can make $0.9 per kilo.
Island nations such as Fiji have problems creating jobs and industries on the marginal islands. Usually
the only work people can do there is fishing or occasionally in the tourist industry. Over-fishing and
illegal fishing occurs in Fiji as with many other countries that do not have the resources to combat it.
Surveys of fishers conducted by GVI showed unanimous agreement that inshore fish stocks have
decreased and many had seen poachers in their traditional fishing grounds.
Seaweed farming provides an alternative income to these marginal communities. Seaweed farms are
low-technology so can be started by unskilled workers with minimal training. It is also a job that can
be, and often is, done by women.
The farms themselves have very little negative environmental impact as they do not require any
fertiliser. The only possible impact that may arise when the farms get bigger is the source of wood
for the stakes.

Figure 1 GVI Volunteers and Community members create new seaweed farm lines

The Project
The Fiji government is aiming to develop seaweed farming to be second only to sugar in terms of
export. The Fiji Ministry of Fisheries and Forestry approached GVI for help in achieving this goal in
early 2013. Fisheries representatives visited the GVI base in the Yasawas to brief the team on the
project last year. After this visit all marine project volunteers helped to expand the existing seaweed
nursery from 100 to 200 lines. This nursery will provide cuttings to start-up farms in the entire
Yasawas region. GVI volunteers now clean this nursery once a week. The Ministry of Fisheries
requested GVIs assistance in starting up a model farm for the Yasawas. This farm was created and
has been maintained by GVI volunteers. Soon the farm will be ready for harvest every 6 weeks and
generating income and will serve to demonstrate to prospective local communities how sutainable
and potentially lucrative seaweed farming can be. By raising awareness and interest amongst local
communities GVI hopes to promote Seaweed farming a viable alternative to unsustainable local
fishing practices such as sea cumber poaching.

Figure 2 Starting and Harvesting the Lines is a social process!

Seaweed farming is a unique opportunity for the government to help create livelihoods in remote
island communities. By doing so the hope is to decrease reliance on over-fishing and illegal fishing.
GVI is dedicated to achieving the Millennium Development Goals set out by the UN. Supporting
seaweed farming in Fiji works towards three of them; eradicating extreme poverty, empowering
women and ensuring environmental sustainability.

Figure 3 - Seaweed as far as the eye can see

To find out more about GVIs Marine Conservation and Community Empowerment projects please