Sea moss cultivation is currently being promoted across different Eastern Caribbean countries such as St. Lucia, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad etc., because of its low impact on the environment, and low investment costs compared to terrestrial crop cultivation or even other forms of aquaculture.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, which works in more than 130 countries worldwide, is one of few organizations that have been supporting sea moss farming in the Caribbean region.
The sea moss industry itself has a great opportunity for growth, as sea moss is increasingly being recognized worldwide as having significant nutritional, energy and health benefits. Mayreau Explorers introduced the activity from Union Island approximately a decade ago. At the time, the Ashton Multi-Purpose Cooperative was conducting a sea moss project in the neighboring Union Island.
One community member brought the idea of this venture to Mayreau. Eventually, the Mayreau Explorers Multipurpose Co-operative (a local productive group made up of 20 members, 10 of which are women), undertook the production activity. Presently, 8 persons are directly involved in sea moss farming (4 males and 4 females).
All 8 persons live in fisher-headed households. Since 2010, they have been farming sea moss to produce (using the raw sea moss) ice cream, rum punch, soft drinks and a gel that serves as a stabilizer in a wide variety of other products. In 2015, the Mayreau Explorers became legally registered as a Cooperative and continue to advance their sea moss farming and ice cream production.
SusGren through the Caribbean Marine Biodiversity Program CMBP goal is to help the Cooperative improve sea moss farming and ice-cream production while minimizing potential impacts to the marine environment, safety to persons and strengthening the operational process (i.e. the full value chain). More specifically the program will: a) facilitate and improve sea moss production capacity through the provision of material inputs (e.g., ropes) to enhance output; b) assist the Cooperative in improving overall operations by identifying target markets, developing new products (ice cream production), designing product packaging and negotiating sales agreements between buyer(s) and producers; and c) procure one ice-cream making machine to produce value-added generating higher income to the cooperative.
CMBP support will help to increase the group’s communal income by eliminating the intermediary players, allowing for a boost in net profits through diversification of their product portfolio. They plan to venture into developing new products and managing new sales agreements in the Grenadines.
The support also helps to diversify products and potential customers. This activity will generate income for the entire Cooperative and indirectly contribute to reducing pressure on fisheries while creating a lucrative livelihood option. It is important to note that no proposed livelihood activity is a complete guarantee that fishers would stop fishing completely, and rely solely on another livelihood option.
However, sea moss farming does provide a profitable alternative to consider, especially given the present local market and international interest on sea moss production in the Eastern Caribbean. This as a result can reduce the need to fish solely as a means of generating income.
FAO is presently involved in the region launching similar responsible sea moss farming initiatives to help better manage the use of marine resources while creating a livelihood opportunity.
Through SusGren better management and sustainable use of this marine resource can be employed by putting in proper measures throughout the full production chain while reducing threats such as algal overgrowth to marine ecosystems.
The group, in November of 2018 diverted from the regular horizontal planting methods using bottles as floating devices, to vertical farming under water.
This is a more environmentally friendly method, reducing the use of waste plastic bottles and increasing production without utilizing much additional space.
Hon. Saboto Caesar congratulated all stakeholders who made the shipment possible, and in encouraging them, noted, that the Ministry through it Agri-Export Strategy Initiative will continue to connect producers in SVG to regional and international markets.