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The impact of seaweed farming on the social and economic structure of seaweed farming communities in Zanzibar, Tanzania

by Flower E Msuya
Communities ()


The economic significance of seaweed farming was recognised in Tanzania in as early as the 1950s when wild seaweed was exported from Zanzibar. Following the collapse of export trade in the late 1970s, seaweed farming started on the Zanzibar Islands in 1989. In this regard, the development of seaweed farming as a marine resource was seen as an alternative source of income that could play an important role in improving the living standards of the people in the areas. Before the commencement of seaweed farming people relied more on subsistence farming, small scale business (petty business trading) and fishing as their major sources of income. After the commencement of seaweed farming, peoples economic activities were replaced by seaweed farming as the major source of income, followed by subsistence farming and small-scale business. Furthermore, studies have shown that more women abandoned subsistence farming in favour of seaweed farming as compared to men. Ownership of items such as radio cassettes, kitchenware, furniture, and clothes increased significantly after the introduction of seaweed farming. Other results include an increase in the number of bank accounts for the respective villages, improved homes for the seaweed farmers, and a reduction on the number of children suffering from malnutrition. Introduction The farming of seaweed (known as Mwani in Kiswahili) started in the Zanzibar Islands (please see associated video about the impact of seaweed farming on the East Coast, particularly for the women of the region) in 1989 when private entrepreneurs established commercial farms in Zanzibar using an imported strain of Eucheuma/Kappaphycus from the Philippines. The necessity to farm seaweed was realised when the Zanzibar wild product could no longer compete with higher productions and relatively cleaner products from Southeast Asia. The cultivation began in two villages, Jambiani and Paje, on the East Coast of Unguja (Zanzibar) Island (Fig. 1). Two companies named Zanzibar Agro-Seaweed Company Limited (ZASCOL), and Zanzibar East Africa Seaweed Company (ZANEA see video) established pilot farms in the area and the success of these pilot farms attracted local farmers who established their own farms with assistance from the two companies. The whole idea of farming seaweeds was, however, established by Tanzanian scientists in the early 1970s (Mshigeni, 1973, 1976, 1985).

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