Each morning, around the east coast of Mahé, a group of women can be found collecting seaweed off the ocean’s floor. They are members of the Women in Action and Solidarity Organisation (Waso), and they are engaged in a SeyCCAT-funded project to collect the seaweed, before turning it into compost. The compost is used as fertiliser, of which there is a growing demand in Seychelles, used for agricultural products and home gardens, and the harvesting of such a sus-tainable resource allows for a circular economy.
Before the project’s beginnings, the seaweed was disposed of by beach cleaning crews and left unused; a huge waste, when in fact, seaweed is a largely untapped resource with many potential uses. Other countries have already twigged on to the potential of seaweed. For example, in Zanzibar, a 2018 UN Food and Agriculture report found that seaweed farming has generated up to the US $8 million per year, as they harvest red seaweed in large quantities to produce car-rageenan, an emulsifying agent which is found in all kinds of food, pharmaceutical and beauty products.
The project helps alleviate the socioeconomic difficulties prevalent in Seychelles, as disadvantaged women are given an opportunity to develop their entrepreneurial skills and be financially independent.
Rose-Mary Elizabeth, the project’s co-creator, explains that the project aims to build the capacity of the ladies. “By edu-cating them about the blue economy, how to manage finances and how to build a successful business, the project will assure that they receive a good income… so that they can live a comfortable life, can support their families and have an overall higher standard of living.”
For example, Santasha, who is employed on the project, tells us that “the small amount I am earning now is already improving my life”, as she can save money towards raising her son. Likewise, Elizabeth, another Waso woman, tells us that since taking part in the project, her life is “more comfortable financially, and the extra money is a big help”.
In the Seychelles, women are often not seen as equal stakeholders in the blue economy, and Benjamin Vel, the project’s other co-creator, decided “it was time for a project to be put into place that would include our ‘grassroots’ people”.
He explains these are the people who are sometimes ‘put to the side’ when it comes to the blue economy. He and Ms Elizabeth wanted to create something which would both increase women’s independence and their capacity around the blue economy.
The mental health benefits of the project are already evident, giving participants a sense of purpose. For example, Eliza-beth, one of the women, describes the project as giving her a ‘joie de vivre’, and tells us “I look forward every Monday and Thursday to come to work”.
Mr Vel hopes that in the future, the ladies will feel inspired to form a company or cooperative, expanding their project.
With this SeyCCAT grant, the project has managed to bring people, planet and prosperity together – a footprint for the sustainable development of our ocean.
Contributed by SeyCCAT