How seaweed farming is uplifting women and communities in Belize

The Nature Conservancy has been partnering with the Government of Belize, non-profits, the private sector and local fishers – including women – to develop an innovative sustainable seaweed mariculture industry that provides ecosystem benefits in addition to alternative income.

Sitting at the table one evening in Placencia, I met the women who would soon form the Belize Women’s Seaweed Farmers Association (BWSFA). I was inspired by their stories and their vision for wanting to uplift their community. Each of these women came with their own ideas but they all shared a passion for the ocean, their country and seaweed farming.

The Nature Conservancy in Belize has been working with local partners over the last five years to help develop a sustainable seaweed industry that can provide social, economic and even ecological benefits to coastal communities and marine ecosystems. While, globally, seaweed is a commodity often farmed and sold for processing into carrageenan or agar, in Belize it is highly valued for local uses in cooking and as a nutritious ingredient in fresh smoothies. Farmers can even obtain up to US $15/lb of dried seaweed.

In addition to providing farmer training sessions for this sustainable coastal livelihood, our collaborative programme has been focused on testing and developing a seaweed farming system that protects and provides habitat for other commercially and ecologically important species, such as spiny lobster, parrotfish, snapper and a host of other species.

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