03 Dec Seaweed Cracker Production: Harnessing the Blue Economy to Improve Community Resilience
The global coronavirus pandemic has forced most locals in Nusa Penida island to rediscover an old way of living through seaweed farming. In Suana Village, one of the most-visited tourist destinations on the east side of the island, local women entrepreneurs jointly run a small venture called Sari Segara group have transformed seaweed into marketable tasty crackers.
Established in 2012, Sari Segara used to be an all-male seaweed farmers’ group. However, with more members beginning to turn to hospitality industries for employment, their wives slowly took over. In 2018, the group was collaboratively run by 32 women who looked for extra income to support their family. They also started expanding the group’s focus from only selling seaweed crops to processing it as some delicacies.
Through experiments, these women finally came up with a flagship product called seaweed crackers. The current head of Sari Segara, Ni Wayan Sari Wariningsih, explained the process of making crackers is less time-consuming yet still profitable. Therefore, members can still work on domestic tasks while taking care of their seaweed farms and producing crackers part time. “Making the cracker dough and cutting it can be done in 2-3 hours, but the drying process can take up to three days,” she said.
To make a minimum 25 kilograms of dried seaweed crackers, Wayan required up to 1.5 kilograms of dried seaweed with 35% of moisture to be mixed with cassava flour and other ingredients. Therefore, the end products can have a unique subtle umami and oceanic taste, which makes it different from other fish-based crackers. Every month, before the pandemic, the Sari Segara group could sell up to 100 kilograms of dried crackers for IDR 50,000 (USD 3.5) per kilogram.
“We never sold the crackers outside Nusa Penida because we want it to be our local signature product. However, with the low economy nowadays, we are considering expanding the product distribution to Bali mainland,” Wayan said.
Marketing seaweed crackers outside the island, on the other hand, turned out to be challenging. Big retail shops and supermarkets require the product to be well-packed and have clear information about the ingredients, nutritional facts, serving suggestions and a valid permit number from the health and religion authorities. As a legal small business, Sari Segara group has obtained one permit from the local governmental health agency and is still in the process of getting others at provincial level.
CTC is working to help strengthen the local economy in Nusa Penida. The implementation of the Coral Reef Rehabilitation and Management Program – Coral Triangle Initiative (COREMAP-CTI) project has assisted Sari Segara in obtaining the Halal label from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and the National Agency for Drug and Food Control (BPOM). In addition, the women will also be given some training on business plans, packaging and marketing, which can improve the group’s management and product development in the future.
The COREMAP-CTI is a project running from April 2021 through to September 2022. One of the project’s objectives is to provide essential capacity-building and support to local community groups, such as local seaweed farmers’ groups to improve their harvest quality and marketing of small- scale seaweed production to support local livelihoods. (*)
Photos by Yoga Putra/CTC