Sikka farmers finding potential in seaweed

Sikka farmers finding potential in seaweed

in News
Maria Serenade Sinurat
Maria Serenade Sinurat
Communication Coordinator

Farmers in Sikka District of East Nusa Tenggara are starting to engage in seaweed farming after years of inactivity due to the collapse of the industry. This is an important milestone in Rikolto’s efforts to unlock seaweed’s untapped economic potential in transforming rural livelihoods.

On a meeting between farmers of Reroroja Village of Sikka, Rikolto, Kalimajari, Reroja Village Government and Iskak Indrayani, a representative from private sector, on Tuesday (28/5), farmers said that they are interested in seaweed farming because of its potential economic value. “Years ago we cultivated seaweed but we could not find buyers, but through this meeting, we are certain that there are buyers out there. It is really important for us to know that we can sell our seaweed,” said one of the farmers, Paulinus Evence.

Paulinus started farming seaweed two months ago. With support from Rikolto and Kalimajari, he learnt how to cultivate seaweed, things that he had never learnt previously. He picked up the lessons pretty quickly and ended up passing on the gained knowledge to other farmers in his village.

In the two-hour meeting, farmers voiced their concerns, mainly about access to market. In the meeting, it was agreed that the village government, through a Village-Owned Enterprise (BUMDes) will buy seaweed from farmers. “We already have BUMDes who will buy directly from farmers. So, farmers should not be worried about market. We will facilitate that” said Bernad Kelang, Reroroja Village Chief.

In Indonesia, the establishment of BUMDes is one of the government’s efforts to advance the local economy, improve rural development and develop the village partnerships and/or third party’s partnership. BUMDes can partner up with private sector and local communities to develop a collaborative governance that suits to local context.

To support farmers, Rikolto has been working collaboratively with the Government of Sikka to re-introduce seaweed as an economic income source. At a provincial level, the East Nusa Tenggara Timur Provincial Government has included seaweed industry as one of its strategic development agendas. The region itself has wide areas potential for seaweed cultivation reaching around 51,000 hectares.

The economic potential of seaweed, however, has not been fully unlocked due to several reasons such as low productivity, weak market infrastructure and not enough investment in seaweed-processing factories. To contribute to rural development, Rikolto through BUMDes supported farmers with seaweed seedlings and farming and harvesting techniques. We also invited buyers to see seaweed cultivation processes.

Iskak Indrayani, a representative from a private sector said that her company is committed to buying 10 tons of seaweed from farmers. “Seaweed has a great market potential and there is always a demand for seaweed. We are ready to collaborate with BUMDes to buy seaweed cultivated by farmers,” Indrayani told the farmers.