16 Jun Seaweed Farming Returns to Nusa Penida Marine Protected Area (MPA)
Since the 1980s, seaweed has been supporting the economy and providing benefits to communities on the coast of Nusa Penida in addition to agricultural and animal husbandry activities. As the number of tourists increased and the price of seaweed in the world market dropped in the last couple of years, local seaweed growers shifted their livelihoods to the tourism sector and abandoned their seaweed farms.
However, as Nusa Penida MPA’s tourism-based economy took a hit this year as as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, local communities in Nusa Penida have returned back to seaweed farming as their main livelihood.
I Wayan Suwarbawa, also known as Pak Rama, is one of the local residents who continues to do seaweed farming activities in Nusa Penida MPA, particularly tending to a large seaweed farm in Nusa Lembongan.
Though many farmers have switched to the tourism sector, Pak Rama with his colleagues’ are committed to continuing seaweed farming, believing that seaweed will once again be the icon of Lembongan and will survive any economic downturn or disruptions in the tourism industry.
Pak Rama noted that when the number of tourists to Nusa Penida MPA dropped during the Mount Agung eruption in 2018, seaweed farming kept him and his colleagues afloat. This year, when the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic hit the islands and putting all tourism activities on hold, seaweed is back as the hope for the community to be able to survive and generate income to meet their needs.
Pak Rama noted that there are currently around 200 people returning to seaweed cultivation from previously 900 farmers in Lembongan Island. They plant Eucheuma cottonii, a fast growing type of seaweed that once harvested and dried are turned into carrageenan and used as food and cosmetic additives. It is also being eyed as a potential raw material for bio-based- packaging or as alternative to plastic-based products.
There are always challenges in starting this business such as the availability of seeds, area preparation, natural conditions and marketing. Pak Rama with his colleagues Wayan Ujiana, is very supportive in helping the community to plant seaweed, providing seeds for the surrounding community, and helping to sell it to Klungkung mainland. They believe that seaweed in Nusa Penida will return to be an icon again and prosperous the community.
Photos by : Wayan Suwarbawa