Okala shows us how to farm algae

Algae farm on Jambiani beach

Dried algae at the Seaweed Center

Okala started his own non-governmental organization (NGO), Jamabeco. Totally home-grown with no foreign interest, his NGO focuses on marine conservation and education in Zanzibar. He doesn’t have a high school diploma, but he does have life-long experience with the ocean, ecological intuition, and the desire to preserve the habitat he loves and the people it supports.

One of Okala’s interests is mwani (seaweed) farming. In addition to its ecological awesomeness, algae is used in products ranging from ice cream to pharmaceuticals. People in Zanzibar have been using algae for ages, but have depleted much of the native populations. In the 90’s, a Danish group brought Eucheuma spinosum to Zanzibar in order to establish seaweed farming.

It’s hard work. Your day has to work around the tidal schedule, you’re working in hot sun, and much of it is spent bent over. Initially, the algae only brought 40 Tsh per dry kilogram (less than 3 cents). With multiple buyers, the price has increased to 450 Tsh per kilo, but that’s still only $0.30.

The Seaweed Center in Paje increases the return on seaweed farming by eliminating the middle man and processing the seaweed locally themselves. Dried seaweed (you should check out their solar dryer!) is ground to a powder and used to make soap. The soap also contains locally grown herbs and spices.

Local leaders like Okala and local industries like the Seaweed Center provide Zanzibari solutions to Zanzibari problems. Folks like me can provide expertise when needed (if you need a phycologist, give me a call!) and consume their products.

By the way, any porifera experts out there? Okala needs a sponge hook-up for his next venture.